One serving of fruits and veggies isn't really all that big, making it easier to fit in your daily diet.
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Although you've likely heard that fruits and vegetables should be staples in your daily diet, you might be a bit confused about exactly how many fruits and veggies you need to eat with each meal and snack. Although the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables varies based on age and gender, the actual size of one serving stays the same whether you're boy or girl, young or old, active or sedentary.
Fruit Serving Sizes
As a general rule, 1/2 cup of a fruit or vegetable is considered one serving, according to the American Heart Association. If you're eating a whole fruit, one serving would be roughly the size of a baseball. One-half cup of fruit or vegetable juice can also count as one serving. A serving of dried fruit is 1/2 cup. Additionally, raw leafy greens -- like lettuce, spinach or kale -- require a slightly larger portion. One full cup of these leafy vegetables equals one serving.
Cups vs. Servings
When the U.S. Department of Agriculture traded the familiar food pyramid for the newer ChooseMyPlate tool, the daily recommendations switched from servings to cups or ounce equivalents. Fruits and vegetable servings are defined in terms of cups. While this may be confusing for people familiar with the traditional pyramid, the new method is actually easier to understand. Rather than recommending a certain number of servings of fruits and vegetables, the new tool tells you exactly how many cups of fruits and veggies you should aim to eat each day.
All children under the age of 8 should aim for 1 to 1.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day. Girls should continue eating 1.5 cups of fruit per day and 2 to 2.5 cups of vegetables until age 18. From age 19 to 30, 2 daily cups of fruit and 2.5 daily cups of vegetables are ideal for women. After age 30, women can decrease the daily serving of fruit to just 1.5 cups. For boys, 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day are adequate until age 13. After that, 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables per day are ideal.
Fitting It In
Trying to squeeze in several cups of fruits and veggies every day can seem like a daunting task -- especially if you have a big family to feed. While raw fruits and vegetables can be easy and excellent snack options between meals, you can easily sneak them into your regular meals. Mix fruits into cereal and oatmeal or blend a fruit smoothie for your morning meal. For extra health points, sneak a handful or raw spinach into your fruit smoothie. Add diced or shredded vegetables to chili, casserole, soup and pasta dishes. Use raw vegetables to scoop up creamy dips, salsa, guacamole or hummus. And choose savory fruits for dessert, rather than splurging on processed, sugary sweets.