May Harter, registered dietitian [December 16 2010]
Scientific evidence suggests that eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day may help protect against heart disease, stroke and some cancers, including breast and colon cancer. Folic acid, found in many fruits, green vegetables and beets, has been shown to help prevent birth defects.
Five servings may sound like a lot, but it's easier than you might think to fit them into your day. It just requires a little planning. Look at the sample menus below, and see how quickly the servings add up!
How big is a serving?
The following are adult servings of common fruits and vegetables (portions for children are typically one tablespoon for each year in age):
Raw, canned or cooked vegetable or fruit -1/2 cup
Raw, leafy vegetables - 1 cup
Potato -1 medium
Apple, banana, orange, pear - 1 medium
Grapefruit - 1/2 cup
Raisins, dried fruit - 1/4 cup
Adult's menu - Food & Serving amounts
Cereal and skim milk
1/2 banana – 1 serving
3/4 cup orange juice* - 1 serving
*A note about juice: It's OK to have some juice, but if you have fruit instead, that's even better. Fruit will provide you with more fiber, which helps you feel more full. If you're going to have juice, limit yourself to no more than 4 ounces (1/2 cup) or 8 ounces (1 cup) per day.
1 cup vegetable soup -1 serving
Fruit (small apple or1/2 cup fresh fruit salad) – 1 serving
Medium baked potato -1 serving
1/2 cup steamed broccoli – 1 serving
Small tossed salad- 1 serving
Fresh fruit tart – 1 serving
Total – 8 servings
Cereal and milk
Berries or 1/2 banana -1 serving
Celery sticks with peanut butter – 1 serving
Fruit salad – 1 serving
Vegetables and dip – 1 serving
Spaghetti with tomato sauce (you can up the vegetable content by sneaking a carrot or other vegetable into the sauce) – 1 serving
Fresh strawberries and low-fat yogurt - 1 serving
Total – 6 servings
When incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet, be sure to eat a variety of different-colored fruits and vegetables daily. Red-strawberries; orange-sweet potatoes; blue-blueberries; green-broccoli; yellow-bananas. Think “rainbow!”
May Harter is a registered dietitian at The Hospital of Central Connecticut.
Learn more about nutrition counseling and weight-loss programs at the hospital,