Vegetables are essential for your diet, giving you an abundance of vitamins, minerals and fiber. But because all vegetables are shaped differently and some are incredibly leafy, it can be challenging to figure out the proper serving size. While all veggies are beneficial, if you’re watching your weight, you may want to opt for nonstarchy types, since they have about one-third of the calories of starchy vegetables.
A serving of chopped and cooked vegetables amounts to about 1/2 cup, which is 4 ounces. If you like your veggies raw, though, one serving is equal to about a cup, or 8 ounces. Some of the nonstarchy vegetable selections include broccoli, carrots, peppers, squash, mushrooms, asparagus, cucumbers, eggplant, pea pods, turnips and onions. Nonstarchy vegetables are generally low in calories and carbohydrates. One serving of these vegetables has approximately 25 calories, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of protein and zero grams of fat.
Leafy greens are part of the nonstarchy veggie group, but they can be tricky to measure. If you chop up lettuce and fill up a 1-cup measuring cup twice, which is 16 ounces in all, you’ll get your single serving. Bibb lettuce, romaine, iceberg, watercress, green and red leaf types of lettuce, as well as raw spinach, endive and escarole, are examples of different types of lettuce you can enjoy for this large portion size. If you like a steamy side of those dark leafy greens, like collard greens, kale or Swiss chard, a single serving is equal to 1/2 cup of the cooked vegetable, or 4 ounces.
Starchy vegetables can certainly fit into your balanced diet, but be aware that a single serving has more calories and carbohydrates that nonstarchy varieties. One serving of starchy veggies has 80 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrates, up to 3 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fat. One serving from this group includes half a large corn on the cob, which is 5 ounces, as well as 1/2 cup, or 4 ounces, of green peas, parsnips or corn off the cob. Or you can have 1/2 cup, or 4 ounces, of mashed sweet potato, or a 3-ounce baked potato -- about one-fourth of a large potato. If you heat up a side of mixed veggies, the type with chopped carrots, corn, lima beans and carrots, one serving is a cup, or 8 ounces.
Meeting Your Recommendation
The number of servings of vegetables you need depends on your age and gender. Adult women should aim for 2 1/2 cups, or 20 ounces, per day, while adult men need 3 cups, which is 24 ounces, daily. Those recommendations remain constant until you reach your 50s. At that point, your caloric needs go down a bit. Women in this age bracket require 2 cups -- 16 ounces -- of veggies each day, while men need 2 1/2 cups, or 20 ounces, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov.
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Many Vegetables Are Needed Daily or Weekly?
- Choose Your Foods: Weight Management; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Food Exchange Lists