Delicious Nutrition

Here Are 10 Pictures of Your Daily Recommended Servings of Fruits & Vegetables

Image Credit: Faith Durand

What's the most important part of a nutritious diet? Most of us can automatically recite the answer: fruits and vegetables. And yet it can be tough to eat the daily recommended amount of produce, and most Americans simply don't. I've certainly been among that 75% — the estimated percentage of us who don't eat enough veggies.

I realized, though, that part of the problem was that I didn't really understand how much we were talking about. What does a daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables look like? I decided to find out, once and for all. Here are 10 photos of fruits and vegetables, each one a complete daily serving. It might not be as much as you think!

Try this fun way to get your clementine ready for lunch. Watch the video —->

How Many Americans Don't Eat Enough Veggies?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2010 that only 33% of adults were eating the daily recommended amount of fruit, and even fewer — 27% — were meeting their veggie quota. And that's adults; the numbers for teens were worse.

But instead of bemoaning the lack of moral (or, you know, vegetable) fiber of our diet today, let's make it easier to eat more fruits and vegetables. For me, it really helps to have a handle on what exactly, is recommended.

What's a Daily Recommended Serving?

There's not a lot that nutrition scientists agree on, but almost everyone seems to think we should eat more vegetables, and that they should make up a greater part of our plates. To this end, they recommend a very basic guideline:

Someone who needs 2000 calories a day should eat:

  • 2 cups of fruit
  • 2 1/2 cups of vegetables

These recommended servings come from widely accepted dietary guidelines that are still, of course, just rough guidelines. Everyone is different, and has different nutritional needs, so there's no one-size-fits-all plan, and perhaps you eat a lot more veggies than this every day (or a lot less fruit).

While that 2000 calorie standard is an average that suits a lot of people, of course it doesn't fit everyone. Fruit and vegetable servings are calibrated off of calorie requirements, which in turn are set by a person's sex, age, and activity level.

I stuck with the calorie baseline above, which happens to fit my own profile. I worked up all these daily servings for someone like me:

If your activity level is lower or higher, or you are older or younger, you probably have different calorie requirements and therefore different recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. But it's easy to add or subtract once you have an eye for a cup of fruit or vegetables.

→ Calculate your own daily recommended servings of fruit & vegetables: The Fruit & Vegetable Calculator at the CDC

A Few Tips on Calculating Fruit & Vegetable Servings

How do servings work? For the most part, a cup means a cup — just measure out a cup of grapes or a cup of chopped carrots, and ta-da, you have your measurement. There are a few exceptions, though.

A Daily Serving of Fruits & Vegetables: 10 Ways

With those caveats, here are 10 looks at a full daily serving of fruits and vegetables.

Image Credit: Faith Durand

Let's start easy. This salad is a typical size that you'd find at a cafe or deli — about 5 cups of greens plus extras. There are your vegetables for the day!

Image Credit: Faith Durand

Another scenario: Berries at breakfast, berries for dessert, and vegetables for lunch, snack, and dinner.

Image Credit: Faith Durand

Let's get snack happy! If you just snack on fruits and vegetables all day, this is the way to do it. Cut up some vegetables and pack them in your lunchbox with some hummus.

Image Credit: Faith Durand

Back to the big salad approach. Eat a big salad for lunch or dinner, and round it out with some fruit. You could even put the fruit on the salad.

Image Credit: Faith Durand

Salads are easy to come by, and a very basic side salad as seen here will probably have about 2 cups of greens (which equals one cup of vegetables). Add a cup of cherry tomatoes and you're almost there.

Image Credit: Faith Durand

But green salads aren't the only way — what about those deli salads you can buy out of the case at Whole Foods or gourmet groceries? Here's an example — asparagus salad with a bit of cheese and salami worked in. A great lunch, and mostly veggies.

Image Credit: Faith Durand

Applesauce and other cooked fruit preparations count too!

Image Credit: Faith Durand

Another snack-centric approach.

Image Credit: Faith Durand

Munch on dried fruit with your breakfast oatmeal, cucumber and carrots at your desk, a kale for dinner, and nectarine for dessert. Easy.

Image Credit: Faith Durand

Let's do this one more time — slaw for lunch, veggies for snacks, fruit for breakfast. Easy.

Easy, Right?

Once I lined everything up I was surprised to see how little food this actually is. When you hear over and over about The Fruits and Vegetables We Are Not Eating, one supposes that the quota must be daunting. But it's not, really, and seeing everything side by side is helpful as I think about planning my meals.

If, on the other hand, all this seems a little bit overly thought-out (hey, it's only fruits and vegetables, after all — eat as much as you can!) I get that. But I do think it's interesting how few of us actually eat our daily recommended fruits and vegetables, and perhaps seeing a few simple examples of how easy it can be might help you. It definitely helped me be more conscious of the snacks I eat and the times when I should skip the second piece of pizza and load more vegetables onto my plate instead.