An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it’s not quite enough to meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended number of fruits and veggies per day. Fruits and vegetables don’t just fill you up without providing a lot of calories; they are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals. Eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies as part of a healthy, balanced diet may help reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes and may protect your body against certain types of cancers.
Eat Your Fruit
Fruits contain a variety of vitamins and minerals plus fiber and get their sweetness from natural sugar. Women between the ages of 19 and 30 need 2 cups of fruit per day, while women 31 and older need 1 1/2 cups. Adult men should aim for 2 cups. One cup of fresh fruit, 1 cup of 100 percent fruit juice or 1/2 cup of dried fruit counts as a 1-cup serving. Choose whole fruit over fruit juice or dried fruit whenever possible and vary your fruit choices. Different colored fruits vary in nutritional content.
Enjoy Your Veggies
Vegetables are low in calories and fat, high in fiber and cholesterol-free. Vegetables provide a variety of essential nutrients, including vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber and folate. Women between the ages of 19 and 50 need 2 1/2 cups per day; after 50, a woman's needs drop to 2 cups daily. Men between the ages of 19 and 50 should aim for 3 cups, while men over the age of 50 need 2 1/2 cups per day. One cup of raw or cooked vegetables, 2 cups of raw leafy greens or 1 cup of 100 percent vegetable juice counts as a 1 cup from the vegetables group. Buy fresh vegetables in season or choose frozen year-round. For canned vegetables, choose reduced-sodium, low-sodium or no-salt-added versions.
Tips for Getting Enough Servings
Keep fruits and vegetables in sight and make them easily accessible. Place a bowl of fresh fruit on your counter and have some ready-to-eat vegetables, like carrots, celery sticks or cut-up bell peppers, in your fridge. Fill up half your plate at each meal with fruits and vegetables. Keep it interesting by varying your choices and trying a new fruit or vegetable at least once per month.
When to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
The number of servings of fruits and veggies per day recommended by the USDA is designed for individuals who engage in less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity in addition to normal daily activities. If you engage in more than 30 minutes of exercise each day, your fruit and veggies recommendation may be higher.