Here's How Much Fruit and Vegetables You Should Be Eating Every Day

©. HuanPhoto

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.)

my plate guidelines

MyPlate/Public Domain

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 1⁄2 cups
Men 19 years old and up: 2 cups

Daily vegetable recommendation:

Women 19 to 30 years old: 2 1⁄2 cups
Women 31 to 50 years old: 2 1⁄2 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 1⁄2 cups

What one cup means

Now here's where it can get a little confusing again, because a cup isn't always a cup.

FRUIT
In general, but not always, one cup of fruit or 1⁄2 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).

  • 1 small apple (21⁄4" diameter) = 1 cup-equivalent
  • 1 large banana (8-9" long) = 1 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 cup of fruit cocktail = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 medium grapefruit (4" diameter) = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1 medium bunch of grapes (about 50 grapes) = 11⁄2 cup-equivalents
  • 1 medium mango = 1 cup-equivalent
  • 1 small orange (approx. 21⁄2" diameter) = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 cup of 100% orange juice (4 fluid ounces) = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 large peach (23⁄4" diameter) = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 2 large plums (21⁄2" diameter each) = 1 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄4 cup of raisins = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent

VEGETABLES
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.

  • 1⁄2 cup of black beans (cooked) = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 cup of broccoli = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1 cup of baby carrots = 1 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 cup of cauliflower = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 cup of corn = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 cup of green beans (cooked) = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 cup of kidney beans (cooked) = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1 cup of iceberg lettuce = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1 cup of romaine lettuce = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 cup of mushrooms = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 2 slices of onion (raw) = 1⁄4 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 cup of pinto beans (cooked) = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1 medium baked or boiled potato (21⁄2-3" diameter) = 1 cup-equivalent
  • 1 cup of baby spinach (raw) = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1 large baked sweet potato (21⁄4" diameter) = 1 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 cup of 100% tomato juice (4 fluid ounces) = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 cup of tomatoes (raw) = 1⁄2 cup-equivalent
  • 1⁄2 cup of zucchini = 1⁄2 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.