You’ve heard it a thousand times: “Eat your fruits and veggies.” But according to the CDC, only about 13% of us are getting the recommended daily servings of fruit, and only 9% eat enough veggies. Missing out on these key components of a healthy diet can be bad news — eating more fruits and vegetables is associated with a decreased risk of a whole slew of health issues, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and more.
In addition to the numerous health benefits, fruits and vegetables are low in calories, but have lots of water and fiber, making them very filling. For this reason, they’re all Noom green foods, meaning they can help you lose weight. Moreover, numerous studies have shown a relationship between fruit and veggie consumption and generally feeling good, including greater feelings of well-being, curiosity, and creativity, as well as greater self-control and more initiative, regardless of factors like BMI and demographics.
Need one more reason to up your intake? Research shows that when we perform one healthy habit, like eating lots of fruits and vegetables, we’re more likely to do other healthy activities. These are called keystone habits — things you do that tie together lots of other potentially good-for-you behaviors. For example, if you feel good about what you’re doing at the dinner table, you may be more motivated to hit the gym.
Of course, for many of us, eating more fruits and vegetables seems like a big task — who’s got the time? The good news is, it’s doable with a little bit of planning.
How much are you supposed to eat?
According to the U.S. government’s MyPlate recommendations, adults should get between 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day, depending on age and gender.
Here are just a few examples of what a cup of fruits and veggies looks like:
- 1 banana
- 1 small apple or 1/2 large apple
- 32 grapes
- 1 medium grapefruit
- 1 orange
- 1 peach
- 1 pear
- 3 medium or 2 large plums
- 8 large strawberries
- 1-inch-thick slice of watermelon
- 2 cups of raw leafy greens equals 1 cup cooked
- 2 medium carrots or 12 baby carrots
- 1 large bell pepper
- 1 large tomato
- 1 ear of corn
Our 5 favorite ways to eat more produce
1. Make fruits and veggies your go-to snack: Instead of snacking on chips, cookies, or other less-than-healthy munchies, try committing to only eating snacks that are fruits or vegetables. Many of the suggestions above are super portable for eating on-the-go, and you can easily pre-package snacks like sliced peppers, baby carrots, or grapes for when you’re at the office or in the car. Don’t forget, you can add a healthy dip like hummus, salsa, or yogurt to mix things up.
2. Eat fruit for dessert: It’s not always easy to ween ourselves off the high-sugar diet we’re used to, but you’d be surprised how quickly your palate adjusts to the natural sweetness of fruit. Try fresh berries, a peach, plums, or a pear for dessert instead of Ben & Jerry’s to add one more serving after dinner. (Stick with what’s in season for even sweeter produce.)
3. Don’t forget the freezer section: You aren’t limited to just what’s in your grocery store’s produce section. Frozen fruit (try stirring it into oatmeal) and vegetables (saute them for easy stirfries) are just as healthy as the fresh variety.
4. Make veggies the star: Often we relegate vegetables to the side of our plate, which makes it tough to get enough — not to mention, when they’re the side dish, we usually give them less of our culinary attention. Instead, try going vegetarian once or twice per week for dinner and make vegetables the focal point of your meal, like this baked vegetable lasagna or tomato and asparagus pasta.
5. Bulk up: Many of your favorite recipes, like casseroles, pasta sauces, and pizzas, can be bulked up with lots of veggies. If you’re dealing with picky eaters, this is a great way to make a meal the whole family will enjoy.
Most importantly, remember that produce can actually be delicious! Eating enough fruits and vegetables isn’t about choking down food because it’s good for you. Anyone can enjoy their spinach — try a few different recipes before deciding you don’t like something. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised!