How many veggies per day should you be eating?
Gosh, that seems like a pretty straight forward question, but it’s hard to get a great answer. My quick answer: Your meals and snacks should be majority vegetables. That means you’re eating more veggies than you are meats, grains, junk or anything else!
If you’ve never tracked how many veggies you are eating or how many your kids are eating, it’s a great exercise. We all slide a little and there’s really no better time to be more conscious of your vegetable intake!
CDC says only 1 in 10 Americans are eating enough veggies – GASP! This has been a statistic that has stayed static and motivated me to make a very veggie sauce, Mama Jess, years ago! Get your veggies in at breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time!
Expert Answers to this veggie serving question:
The USDA recommends 1-3 cups per day depending on our activity level/age. That’s a recommendation that I hope they re-evaluate sooner than later. It’s frankly, ridiculously low. I’m not just saying that because I’m a veggie fanatic but because the evidence based research points to that.
For optimal health – what we all want, right?- you should be eating closer to 6-10 servings of fruit & veggies a day. More of the mix should be vegetables than fruit. The weight equivalent to 6-10 servings is ~800 grams/almost 2 pounds. Based on International Journal of Epidemiology (2017) 6-10 servings of fruits & veggies have been proven to prevent chronic disease, cancer, heart disease and premature death.
They don’t all equate based on the bulk density of the vegetable. In other words, 4 cups of lettuce is NOT the same of 4 cups of broccoli.
The cups-pounds-servings lingo is confusing. Some people NEED to use one of those measurements because that’s how it makes sense to them. I get that! I’m actually a pound girl as I weigh things in the food science world. Fun fact about me: I can tell you by a glance how many grams or pounds are sitting on your plate! Ha! But it’s good to learn that a huge green salad often weighs too little, be sure to ‘beef it up’ with solid veggies like cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, and so on.
Whatever your measurement method, I ask you to take a moment:
1️⃣Track and measure just how many veggies you are eating in one day
2️⃣Try to increase your veggie consumption over the next couple days. Don’t aim for a super high number, just gradually increase.
3️⃣After you get the hang of incorporating more veggies, try to go for a more ambitious goal like in the 6-10 servings or over 1-2 pounds/day or 6 cups a day.
Many dietitians have recommended this: eat either 2 cups of cooked veggies per meal OR 4 cups of raw veggies per meal. I’ve polled some of may favorite experts and here are some invaluable tips to incorporate more veggies:
Ellen – the Diabetes Dietitian @milknhoneynutrition
“add one serving of vegetables per day from where you are at with the ultimate goal of getting 3-4 more servings of vegetables in your regular routine each day”
Lindsay, RDN from @theleangreenbean
“focus on varied because you can get different vitamins and nutrients from each vegetable, so its good to change it up. Increase slowly, especially high fiber vegetables to let your body adjust.
If you’re not eating any, try adding 1/2-1cup of vegetables to your plate at lunch or dinner, then both. Then a little more…”
Ashley, Pediatric Dietitian @veggiesandvirtue
“A great way to get daily variety in is to think through the rainbow and if your family is eating something from each color each day.
This gives new opportunities to consume the benefits of each color of veggies each day with a more playful, inviting approach than simply thinking, ‘eat more veggies’.
This is an engaging way for kids to take ownership over what their bodies need too, without getting too wrapped up in nutrition talk (which can be counter-productive at times).
Instead, help them think through how many colors they can include at any given eating opportunity and then check in throughout the day for what colors their rainbow is ‘missing’!”
Christina Byrnes, Dietitian @shebyrnestoast
“Make veggies super accessible, buy veggies that don’t need to be cut like Persian cucumbers, mini bell peppers, snap peas, etc. Or if you have more time, wash and cut veggies right when you get home from store. Put them in clear containers on the shelves of the fridge. Don’t hide them in drawers where you forget about them.”
I will continue to dive into veggie tips and topics as we go. More experts, more advice to come!