How Many Servings of Fruit & Vegetables Do You Eat, Really?

Be Honest:

Do you grab a bagel, muffin or granola bar for breakfast without ever considering fruit? Do you have a sandwich for lunch with chips or fries and hope that those potatoes count? Is the token spoonful of veggies you have at dinner the first and often only veggie that crosses your lips?

If so, you’re not alone. We Americans average only 2.7 servings per day of fruit and vegetables combined, when we really need upwards of 13 servings! Did you know that correcting THIS SINGLE HABIT is the number one way to keep your blood pressure in check (more important that lowering salt) and your cholesterol down (more important than fat and dietary cholesterol)? It’s also the best way to fight cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heartburn and our never-ending battle with the bulge!

Yes, my friends, if there is ONE THING you can do to improve how you look and feel, it’s consistently eating fruit and veggies.

So, how many servings of fruit and veggies do we need?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has recommended for years that we eat 5-9 servings per day. The American Institute for Cancer Research is so convinced of the cancer-fighting abilities of fruits and vegetables that they recommend 9-11 servings each day. The federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans now call for as many as 13 half-cup servings each day. (And you thought 5 a day was a lot!)

In order to better reach everyone where they currently are, the Produce for Better Health Foundation kicked off a campaign over a decade ago that promotes, “Fruits & Veggies—More Matters.” So even if you’re already eating 8 a day—strive for more.

Are you ready to crush the “More Matters” Challenge?

It’s not as hard as you may think with these easy and creative tips for getting more fruits and veggies on your plate.

Getting MORE Fruit and Veggies: Here’s How!

  • Keep a huge bowl full of fresh fruit in plain sight for easy grabbing. Just as candy in a visible candy dish seems to magically disappear, so will the fruit if it’s in sight and easy to grab.
  • Aim for at least 5 a day WITHOUT counting juice servings since juice does not contain important fiber. If you can achieve 5 servings a day and then drink 8 ounces of juice each day (2 fruit servings), you’ll be up to 7 servings before you know it.
  • Bowl of cereal? Never go naked again! In fact, back off on the amount of cereal to make room for berries, bananas, raisins and apples. Do this for yogurt too!
  • Get into a daily smoothie habit, including fresh and frozen fruit with veggies snuck in like carrots, spinach and kale. (For many, particularly children, this is the only way they will ever achieve their intake goal. And it’s an effective ice cream replacement to boot!)
  • Repeat after me: ALWAYS include a fruit or vegetable with every snack and every meal. (My DIET FREE Habit #3) Never again eat cheese and crackers without also adding carrot sticks. Never eat chips without an apple. This is a “game-changer” rule…get ready to buy a smaller belt!
  • Add shredded or chopped carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, red and green peppers or spinach to spaghetti sauce.
  • Add many more vegetables to tossed salad than your mother did, and use romaine, spinach or dark-leaf lettuce instead of iceberg. Also trade in your small salad bowls for large salad bowls, cause you are going to need it!
  • Make Sunshine Carrot-Raisin Salad, Marinated Vegetable Salad and Crunchy Apple Salad frequently. (These recipes and more can be found in my Lickety-Split Meals cookbook.)
  • Don’t wait for holidays to prepare a fresh veggie and dip platter. Make it a tradition to always have a fresh veggie tray in the fridge for snacking, and keep a favorite Greek yogurt dressing on hand for dipping.
  • Declare one night a week as “stir-fry” night. This is a great way to consume a larger-than-normal portion of vegetables, deliciously.
  • When making dinner, steam a large batch of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots to provide “planned-over’s” for tomorrow’s lunch. (These are also delicious tossed in scrambled eggs for breakfast.)
  • Double your “token” portion of vegetables at dinner and you’re up again.

Dessert your way to eating lots of fruit and veggies!

  • Make Carrot Cake and Carrot Muffins often. Be sure to use nutritious recipes like those in my Lickety-Split Meals cookbook.
  • Use canned pumpkin frequently by making pumpkin bread, muffins, bars, cookies, pie, and even pudding. Try Harvest Pumpkin Bars from my Eat REAL Cookbook.
  • Fruit is truly nature’s candy, so complement your dinner with fruit slices, cubed melons, strawberries and pineapple.
  • Frozen fruit like grapes, blueberries, strawberries and cherries, and dried fruit like apricots, peaches and apples make excellent snacks.

What does one serving of fruit or vegetable look like?

  • 1 small apple, pear, orange, nectarine, kiwi
  • ½ banana
  • 2 plums
  • 4 apricots
  • 15 grapes
  • 2 T raisins
  • 4 dried apricots
  • ½ cup applesauce (unsweetened)
  • ½ cup canned fruit (in own juice & drained)
  • 1 cup berries or melon
  • 1 tomato
  • 6 baby carrots
  • ½ cucumber
  • ½ red, yellow, orange or green pepper
  • ½ small (8 oz) sweet potato
  • ½ cup cooked vegetables
  • 1 cup raw vegetables
  • 2 cups raw leafy vegetables
  • ½ cup canned vegetables
  • ½ cup salsa (preferably fresh for sodium control)
  • 4 oz 100% fruit juice
  • 8 oz 100% vegetable juice

Track your way to success!

A great way to monitor your produce-eating progress is to keep track of your daily servings of fruit and veggies – at least until it has become a habit.  Two resources I recommend are:

  • Daily Dozen App. This is a free digital app offered by NutritionFacts.org. Download on your favorite device and you’re sure to have trackable success at your fingertips.
  • DIET FREE Habit Tracker.  With my 30-day pocket-sized tracker, you’re sure to include a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal and snack. Learn more.