Only 1 in 10 Americans meets the federal fruit and vegetable recommendations; here's what to aim for.
According to the CDC, in 2015 only 12 percent of Americans met the recommendations for eating fruit, and just nine percent ate enough vegetables – even though eating enough fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet reduces the risk of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity.
So, how much is enough?The federal guidelines used to be shown in a pyramid and recommendations were described in servings, which could sometimes be complicated since one serving could mean, for example, a whole piece of medium sized fruit or 1/2 cup of canned fruit or 3/4 cup of fruit juice. One practically needed a spreadsheet and a calculator to keep track.
With the more recent introduction of the MyPlate graphic, it's a little bit easier. The idea is to fill half of one's plate with fruit and vegetables; and the serving sizes have been simplified to cups. (But since most of us don't always have a measuring cup on hand, it can still be a bit tricky. I generally try to visualize my favorite 1-cup scoop, which is a bit smaller than my first, and take it from there.)
As for how much to eat, the recommendations vary by age and gender; these are amounts for those who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, beyond normal daily activities.
Daily fruit recommendation
Women 19 to 30 years old: 2 cups
Women 31+ years old: 1 ½ cups
Men 19 years old and up: 2 cups
Daily vegetable recommendation:
Women 19 to 30 years old: 2 ½ cups
Women 31 to 50 years old: 2 ½ cups
Women 51+ years old: 2 cups
Men 19 to 30 years old: 3 cups
Men 31 to 50 years old: 3 cups
Men 51+ years old: 2 ½ cups
What one cup meansNow here's where it can get a little confusing again, because a cup isn't always a cup.
In general, but not always, one cup of fruit or ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the Fruit Group. Any fruit or 100 percent fruit juice counts (though remember that juice lacks the fiber of whole fruits). Here are some other equivalents.
- 1 small apple (2¼" diameter) = 1 cup-equivalent
- 1 large banana (8-9" long) = 1 cup-equivalent
- ½ cup of fruit cocktail = ½ cup-equivalent
- ½ medium grapefruit (4" diameter) = ½ cup-equivalent
- 1 medium bunch of grapes (about 50 grapes) = 1½ cup-equivalents
- 1 medium mango = 1 cup-equivalent
- 1 small orange (approx. 2½" diameter) = ½ cup-equivalent
- ½ cup of 100% orange juice (4 fluid ounces) = ½ cup-equivalent
- ½ large peach (2¾" diameter) = ½ cup-equivalent
- 2 large plums (2½" diameter each) = 1 cup-equivalent
- ¼ cup of raisins = ½ cup-equivalent
Any vegetable or 100 percent vegetable juice counts; vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed. Within the vegetable group, there are sub-groups, of which you should strive to eat a mix of all: Dark-green vegetables; red and orange vegetables; starchy vegetables; beans and peas (which can also satisfy protein requirements), and other vegetables. The equivalents are often equal, but not always. Here is a list to give you a better idea.
- ½ cup of black beans (cooked) = ½ cup-equivalent
- ½ cup of broccoli = ½ cup-equivalent
- 1 cup of baby carrots = 1 cup-equivalent
- ½ cup of cauliflower = ½ cup-equivalent
- ½ cup of corn = ½ cup-equivalent
- ½ cup of green beans (cooked) = ½ cup-equivalent
- ½ cup of kidney beans (cooked) = ½ cup-equivalent
- 1 cup of iceberg lettuce = ½ cup-equivalent
- 1 cup of romaine lettuce = ½ cup-equivalent
- ½ cup of mushrooms = ½ cup-equivalent
- 2 slices of onion (raw) = ¼ cup-equivalent
- ½ cup of pinto beans (cooked) = ½ cup-equivalent
- 1 medium baked or boiled potato (2½-3" diameter) = 1 cup-equivalent
- 1 cup of baby spinach (raw) = ½ cup-equivalent
- 1 large baked sweet potato (2¼" diameter) = 1 cup-equivalent
- ½ cup of 100% tomato juice (4 fluid ounces) = ½ cup-equivalent
- ½ cup of tomatoes (raw) = ½ cup-equivalent
- ½ cup of zucchini = ½ cup-equivalent
So there you go. I am not sure if this is all super easy or a bit complicated – though the plate graphic does give a good visual guide. But the bottom line is this: Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. For more, visit the MyPlate site and/or browse the related stories below.