So how do you think you do?
The current recommendations are 2-4 servings of fruit per day and 3-5 servings of vegetables every day.
Even if you’re healthy. Even if you pay attention to what you eat. Even if you’re vegetarian or vegan, chances are you’re not getting all 5-9 servings a day.
In fact, 85 percent of us are not getting the recommended minimum amount of fruits and vegetables. On the flipside, that means that only 15 percent of us are doing a good job of eating a healthy balance.
My parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents used to tell me that if I didn’t eat my vegetables, not only would I not be able to leave the table, I also wouldn’t get dessert. AND, I wouldn’t get curly hair.
I don’t know if I really wanted curly hair or something or if this was some old, weird story mutated through the decades, but that threat definitely didn’t deter me as much as the thought of no dessert.
Now that I’m older, I’m still motivated by getting to eat a treat now and again, but I’m even more motivated by bigger health concerns.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adults who never ate fruits and vegetables died three years earlier and had a 53% higher mortality rate (as compared to adults who got five servings/day).
Pretty good motivation to get at least five servings a day, right?
What Exactly is a Serving?
Serving size can be really tricky. Unless you spend a lot of time analyzing nutrition labels and measuring out your foods, there’s a pretty high likelihood that you have a skewed idea of what a portion really looks like.
Luckily, a lot of fruits come “portion-controlled” already. If your fruit is about the size of a baseball, you can think of that as one serving. If you prefer to cut up your fruit or eat frozen or canned fruit, ½ cup is one serving, and a ½ cup of fruit juice will also satisfy one of those two to four servings you’re shooting for.
The same guidelines apply to vegetables.
All-in-all, if you’re getting your recommended daily intake, you’re going to be eating about 2.5 to 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day.
Obviously, that’s a lot, so it’s pretty easy to see why people aren’t getting enough. But when you look at the benefits, it makes sense for us all to try a little harder.
Tips for Eating More Fruits and Vegetables
Now that we’re all on the same page here and we all can admit that we’re most likely not getting enough fruits and vegetables and we can all agree that we should strive to get more, here are a few tips to increase your intake without drastically changing your lifestyle.
- Sneak vegetables into your favorite meals. If you’re already planning on making spaghetti, try to add in some zucchini, peppers, or broccoli to the sauce. There are so many ways you can sneak vegetables into your favorite meals (hamburgers, pasta dishes, casseroles, etc.). Get creative!
- Pack fruit instead of packaged foods for snacks. Around our house, we call apples, bananas, and oranges “hand fruit.” In other words, it fits in your hand, it’s convenient, it’s portable, and it just happens to be one extra serving of fruit that’s much better than that serving of potato chips.
- Eat dried fruit instead of dessert after lunch. There are a lot of dried fruits that are just as sweet as cookies and candy. Some of my favorites are dried figs and dried apricots. These are great things to keep at your desk when you’re tempted to get a candy bar from the vending machine.
- Revisit fruits and vegetables that you “don’t like”. I am a huge proponent of beets. They’re definitely one of my favorite vegetables so I’m always a little surprised when people turn up their noses immediately. Every time (excluding maybe one extremely stubborn person) I get someone to try beets again, they end up really loving them. Moral of the story: just because you didn’t like something when you were a child, doesn’t mean your tastes haven’t changed.
- Start your day with a smoothie. I will never be the person that can pass up dessert in exchange for a piece of fruit and be content. I know myself too well to try to convince myself otherwise. But one thing I can do is start my morning with a smoothie packed with fruits and vegetables. I like to sneak in some spinach or kale for an extra serving of vegetables, but you can also just stick with fruit and fruit juice.
There’s a pretty good probability that your friends and family are not getting their full share of fruits and vegetables daily. Share this blog post on Facebook to get the word out there.
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