Did you know that adults in the U.S. only consume fruit about 1.1 times per day and vegetables about 1.6 times per day?1 Eating fruits and vegetables has many health benefits. People who eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help lower their risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Eating healthy can also prevent obesity and high blood pressure.2
You’ve probably heard it all your life — eating fruits and vegetables is important for good health, however, most of us still aren’t getting enough. Fewer than 1 in 4 adults eat the recommended amount of fruits and fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables every day.2
Fruits, vegetables, and legumes (dry beans and peas) may reduce the risk of several chronic diseases. Compared to people who eat few fruits, vegetables, and legumes, people who eat higher amounts as part of a healthy diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancers in certain parts of the body (mouth, throat, lung, esophagus, stomach, and colon-rectum).3
The fiber in fruits, vegetables, and legumes is important. Diets rich in fiber-containing foods may reduce the risk of heart disease. Many fruits, vegetables and legumes are also rich in vitamins A, C and K, folate, potassium and magnesium.
Additionally, many fruits, vegetables and legumes are low in calories and high in volume and nutrients so eating more fruits and vegetables can help you feel full without eating too many calories. As a result, this may help you lose a few pounds along the way.
How Much Should You Eat?
By making fruits and vegetables the focal point of every meal, you will be able to meet your recommended amount each day. Easiest way to do this is by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal.4
The number of cups of fruits and vegetables your family needs depends on caloric needs, which are determined by age, gender and activity level. Visit fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org for more details.
Become a Label Reader!
One caution about buying packaged (canned, dried, or frozen) fruits and vegetables is they may contain added sugars, saturated fats, or sodium—ingredients you may need to limit. There are three places to look on a package that give you clues about what is in the food: the ingredient list, the Nutrition Facts label, and the front label of the package.
Added sugars can appear on the ingredient list as brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, maple syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, and syrup.
If fruits and vegetables are canned, dried, or frozen, use the Nutrition Facts label to check the calories, the nutrient content, added salt (sodium), and sugar. Use the percent Daily Value (% DV) to determine how much dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium, are in the food you select; 5% DV or less is low and 20% DV or more is high. If you want to meet recommended intakes for certain nutrients such as dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium, look for food high in those nutrients. For nutrients that you need to limit your intake of, such as sodium and saturated fat, select food that is low in those nutrients.
In addition, the label on the front of the package may contain claims about the product put there by the manufacturer. Use the claims on fruit and vegetable packages to identify foods with little salt (sodium) or added sugars. Examples include “low sodium,” “no added salt,” “no added sugar,” and “unsweetened.”3
Tips for Eating More Fruits & Veggies
- Add more fruits and vegetables to a favorite recipe (for example, add vegetables to your favorite pasta, grated carrots or zucchini to meat loaf, or fruit to a homemade dessert).
- Add vegetables to your sandwich at lunch.
- Add canned, dried or fresh fruit to your salad (for example, canned mandarin oranges, dried cranberries or fresh apples).
- Add vegetables to your soup, rice, or pasta at dinner.
- Cut up vegetables for easy access in your refrigerator.
- Try a new method for cooking vegetables (for example, grilling, roasting or sautéing).
- Bring fruit to have on hand, and eat a piece when you get hungry.
- Keep a snack bag of dried fruit (like raisins or cranberries) in your purse or desk.
- Bring your lunch to work, and include at least two servings of fruits or vegetables.
- Ask your server if you can choose vegetables for a side dish with your order.
- Enjoy a side salad with your lunch or dinner.