What would you say if we told you we are each supposed to be eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables...daily!?
Would you respond by saying, Krista and Zonya,
"No way, you all have lost your minds!"
Believe it or not, 10 servings of fruits and vegetables is the target we should all aim for based on studies and research.
And, how much does the average American eat?
Sadly, the reported average among Americans is only 2.2 servings per day. And, when you think about it, you know what we mean...maybe someone has a salad at lunch or grabs an apple or banana for a snack, and then has the afterthought while making dinner...we need a vegetable, let's heat up a can of green beans. And, there's your two a day!
Why ten servings?
There is compelling evidence that the risk of chronic disease continues to decrease with the intake of up to ten servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
By hitting your 10, the data shows the risk of heart disease drops by 24%, the risk of a stroke drops by 33%, cancer risk decreases by 13% and the risk of dying prematurely goes down by 31%. It is estimated that 7.8 million deaths per year could be prevented if everyone consumed (a.k.a. enjoyed!) their ten daily servings!
If you think about it, this really isn't surprising.
Not only are you getting all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that come from a variety of fruits and vegetables but, without even realizing it, you are eliminating room for many of those unhealthy highly processed food imposters.
After all, there is only so much food you can eat in a day, right?!
How much is a serving?
You may be surprised how small a serving is. Here are some rules of thumb:
- Raw leafy greens: 1 cup
- Raw and cooked vegetables (other than leafy greens): 1/2 cup
- Fresh fruit: 1/2 cup
- Whole fruits: 1 medium-sized fruit
- Dried fruits: 1/4 cup
Remember, we are big believers in not overcomplicating things. It is important not to obsess and get hung up on counting every single serving, but just be mindful about it. Keep in mind, if you keep it simple and EAT REAL FOOD for every meal and snack, you will naturally get your 10 servings per day (and then some!), along with the nutrients your body needs to THRIVE!
Let's look at what a day of REAL food looks like...
(and several of these ideas can be made ahead and enjoyed for multiple days):
- First, let's say you started the day with the Sweet Potato & Kale Frittata
- Mid-morning, you enjoy the Berry Chia Seed Pudding
- Followed by the Mason Jar Chicken Pasta Salad for lunch
- Mid-afternoon, the Roasted Beet Hummus with raw veggies or a few pita chips is the perfect snack to keep you satisfied until dinner
- At dinnertime, savor the Italian Vegetable Stew and the Winter Blues Fruit Salad
- To satisfy a sweet craving after dinner, you head to the freezer for the Mixed Berry Banana Ice Cream
Would you believe you would have enjoyed 12 servings of fruits and vegetables! Plus, let's face it, sometimes these meals are so good, you might just have seconds. So, the reality is you probably consumed 15 or more servings of fruits and vegetables this day!
- For breakfast, you reach in the fridge and grab one of the Pesto Veggie Breakfast Burritos that you assembled over the weekend
- Later that morning, you snack on the Dreamy Fruit & Nutty Salad
- Lunchtime involves enjoying the delicious Southwest Stuffed Sweet Potato
- In the afternoon, the Roasted Veggie Guacamole hits the spot
- Then dinner is the Eggplant Pizzas and the Asian Kale & Cabbage Salad
- We can't forget dessert...the absolutely delicious Everyday Fruit Crisp
Again, you are at almost 15 servings...probably more than 15 when you throw in an extra serving or two!
When some people hear they should eat 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, their response is dread and often "that sounds miserable to me" or "I have no idea how I could do that!"
Now, we have to ask, do these meals, snacks and desserts sound miserable to you? By the end of the day, you would likely feel so satisfied that you can't wait for your REAL food meals tomorrow!
According to an Eat REAL America member:
“The difference in EATING REAL, compared to other things we’ve tried, is that the food is really good. I don’t feel deprived in either portion size or taste so I’m willing to continue this for life! Plus seeing the success I’m having keeps me motivated. My husband is absolutely thrilled with his weight-loss progress—he’s at the lowest he’s been in many, many years, having now lost 27 pounds!! Just saw my doctor for my yearly checkup and my bloodwork was PERFECT and blood pressure is good too. So I’m proud to say I am now 72 and don’t take a single medication. Thank you!"
Here are some great ways to easily get to 10 servings per day:
- Enjoy a big salad with every meal! This is part of our routine. No matter what else we are having, it is a given we will have a big salad as part of our meal. We load it up with with in-season ingredients (fruits and veggies) and a variety of tastes and textures. And, of course, a homemade dressing.
- Roasted (or grilled) veggies! Another part of our routine is to turn the oven onto 400 degrees when we are ready to start dinner...because we will be roasting vegetables! Often, we just add oil, salt and pepper and the GOTO seasoning. We often have two or three baking sheets loaded with veggies and think we are making too much but inevitably they either disappear at dinner or the next morning for breakfast (with an egg on top)! In the summer, we prefer to use the grill, but the routine doesn't change.
- Start your day off right! Incorporate some kind of fruit or veggie into your breakfast. Add fruit (or even veggies) to your oats, top your pancakes or waffles with berries, add homemade pesto to your English Muffin, incorporate veggies into your eggs...the possibilities are endless!
- Make snacking easy! A tray loaded with veggies and fruits - and a delicious dip - makes it super-easy for you and your family to snack on these goodies (vs. chips or other things they may reach for).
- Veggie-loaded pizzas! A pizza crust is a canvas for your fresh, in-season fruits and veggies! Plus, you can transform your crust by using cauliflower, eggplant or zucchini to add even more vegetables. You can also use sweet potatoes as your base with so many ideas for stuffed sweet potatoes!
- Smoothies! A discussion about fruits and veggies wouldn't be complete without mentioning smoothies, which are great options for breakfast, snacks or even dessert. Check out our smoothie formula if you need a little guidance or inspiration. And, what about juicing? When juicing, you typically lose the fiber and other beneficial nutrients, so we think smoothies are a better option.
- Replace the meat! There are outstanding ways to use veggies to replace the meat in meals like the Surprise Spaghetti Bolognese, the Portobello Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich or the Eggplant Burgers with Caramelized Shallots.
- Substitute your pasta! Spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles are a fantastic replacement for pasta in so many meals...try the Sunday Sauce Inspired by Lidia over spaghetti squash, the Mexican Zucchini Skillet or the Zoodles Gone Mediterranean!
- Bowl full of veggies! Especially this time of year, you can load several servings of veggies in your soups, stews and Buddha bowls. Try the Spicy Peanut Sweet Potato Soup, Stuffed Cabbage Soup or Roasted Sweet Potato & Chickpea Buddha Bowl.
- Fruit for dessert! We're not just talking about eating some apple slices or an orange, although those are perfectly acceptable options. There are so many insanely delicious ideas to incorporate fruit into your desserts...everything from Chocolate Covered Strawberries to a Mason Jar Fruit Crisp to a Grilled Banana Split to Nice Cream to Strawberry Pie...even Roasted Pears or Apples!
If you're not there already, this is a great time of year to challenge yourself to commit to at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day! (This could be an excellent idea for Lent!) Try it for 30 days and see the results...for your physical health, your mental health, your immune system and so much more!
Please share with us, what are your favorite recipes or ways to load up on your fruit and veggie intake each day?