“Eat your veggies!” It’s a chorus you’ve probably heard ever since you were little, but if you’re like most Americans, it doesn’t have much effect. Most adults in the United States fall short of eating recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. The amount of fruits and veggies you’re supposed to eat depends on your age and gender, but if you’re not getting enough, adding a little at a time to your diet can make a big difference.
According to the USDA’s MyPlate, men should eat 2 cups of fruit per day and 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables. Women should eat 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day and 2 to 2½ cups of vegetables.
How Much We Really Eat
According to a 2015 report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the vast majority of Americans do not eat recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables every day. More women meet the recommendations than men, perhaps partly because men are supposed to eat more fruits and vegetables than women. More Americans meet fruit recommendations than veggie recommendations. Overall, however, only about 12 percent of Americans eat as much fruit as they’re supposed to every day, and less than 10 percent eat enough vegetables.
How Much Fruit to Eat
According to the USDA’s MyPlate, men should eat 2 cups of fruit per day and women should eat 1½ to 2 cups. In general, the following amounts count as a cup:
- 1 cup of cut-up fruit
- 1 cup of 100 percent fruit juice
- ½ cup of dried fruit
How Much Vegetables to Eat
MyPlate specifies that men should eat 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables and women need 2 to 2½ cups. These count as 1 cup of veggies:
- 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables
- 1 cup of vegetable juice
- 2 cups of leafy greens
Try to eat a variety of veggies each week, including servings from the various groups: leafy greens, red and orange veggies, starchy vegetables, beans, and peas.
The Importance of Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are primary sources of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that people need to maintain healthy weights and reduce the risk of several chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. All fruits and veggies have beneficial nutrients, and different colors tend to contain different phytonutrients, so it’s best to eat a wide variety.
Getting More Fruits and Vegetables
Need to eat more fruits and veggies? There are simple ways to add some to your diet without making huge changes. Consider packing single pieces of fruit, such as apples or bananas, as snacks to munch on at work. For recipes, use canned or frozen produce when fresh isn’t available. To get a bunch of fruits and veggies at a time, blend them together into a smoothie that you can take on the go. If time is an obstacle, buy pre-washed and pre-cut veggies to quickly add to soups, casseroles, and stir-fries.