Ask an Expert: Fruits and Veggies – How Many Should You Eat?

Q: First, it was “five a day.” Then the Dietary Guidelines changed to “4 to 13 servings per day.” I’m confused — how many fruits and vegetables should I be eating?

Answer provided by Terese Scollard, MBA, R.D., L.D., regional clinical nutrition manager for Providence Nutrition Services: 

You’re not the only one who is confused. When the message was simply “five a day,” barely 10 percent of Americans met the guidelines. When the new recommendations came out advising people to eat even more fruits and veggies, the consumption gap grew even wider.

That’s why a group of the nation’s leading health organizations has banded together to launch a new national campaign aimed at making it easier for you to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Their message is simple: More matters!

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines haven’t changed — they still recommend 4 to 13 half-cup servings (2 to 6-1/2 cups) a day for adults, depending on your age, gender and activity level (2 to 5 cups for kids and teens). To find out what the recommendations are for you, download this brochure. But if the numbers are getting in your way, all you really need to remember is simply to try to eat more fruits and vegetables every day.
It’s a refreshing message, when you think about it. After all the warnings about all the things we should consume less of — less sugar, less soda, less saturated fat — finally, we’re being told that there’s something we can eat more of!

Filling your plate with more vegetables and fruits can make a big difference in helping you maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of serious diseases, and improve your energy throughout the day.

OK, I get the message — but how do we eat more? My family is picky and my kids don’t like vegetables.

The folks behind the “Fruits & Veggies — More Matters™” campaign aren’t leaving you to figure it out on your own. They’ve put together a Web site that provides a searchable database of dozens of recipes for just about any fruit or vegetable you’ve ever heard of. You’ll also find a calculator that figures how many cups of fruits and vegetables you need each day, tips for incorporating more produce into your diet, and links to other helpful sites.

In the grocery store, you’ll also start to see the “Fruits & Veggies — More Matters™” logo appearing on approved foods and drinks that can help you meet your nutritional goals. Look for the logo — featuring a bright green juggler tossing fruits and veggies into the air — on fresh produce, as well as canned, frozen and dried products that meet nutritional guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the partners in the campaign.

We’re lucky to live in Oregon, where fresh produce is abundant and farmer’s markets bring us the local harvest nearly every month of the year. If you’ve been in a vegetable rut, the surest cure is to go to the farmer’s market, pick up something you’ve never eaten before and ask the grower how you should prepare it. Go back the next week, pick out something else, and repeat. The more, the merrier!

May 2007