Eat More Vegetables Practice
Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet. They are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Fruits and vegetables should be part of every meal and your first choice for a snack. Many people struggle to eat their daily requirement of vegetables. But overcoming your veggie aversion is important because they offer tons of vitamins, minerals and other vital nutrients. Vegetables are typically low in calories and fat, making them a great nutritional bargain. Use this practice to rediscover the benefits of a vegetable-rich diet and fill up your plate with colorful foods from the garden.
You can expect: lower your risk of developing many types of disease, increased vitamin intake, possible weight loss
What the experts are saying: According to the USDA, a diet that includes several servings of vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease
Level of Effort: Easy
Time Involved: 10 Minutes A Day
- Know your vegetables - types, groups, what to look for
- Determine how much you need and what constitutes a serving
- Explore options to add more vegetables to your diet.
- Each day make a list of the vegetables you plan eat. Aim to eat 2 servings of vegetables per day.
What to Consider:
- Why it's important to eat more vegetables
- Learn more about Juicing…
- Additional resources and articles
The vegetable group is one of the five major food groups developed by the USDA. The brighter, deeper colored vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and different colors provide different benefits. Learn more about the food groups…
The vegetable group is subdivided into five categories:
- Dark green vegetables and leafy greens - broccoli, spinach, kale, green leaf lettuce, arugula
- Red, orange and yellow vegetables - sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin
- Dry beans and peas
- Starchy vegetables - green peas, corn
- Other vegetables - onions, mushrooms
*Any vegetable or 100 percent vegetable juice qualifies as a member of the vegetable group.
These vegetables are among some of the most important to include in your diet, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are loaded with vitamins and nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. Spinach, in particular, is a good source of iron and folate; mustard greens are also recommended for their folate content, which is particularly important for women of reproductive age.
- collard greens
- turnip greens
- mustard greens
- bok choy
- certain dark lettuces, such as romaine.
- Boston or Bibb lettuce
- Green or Red leaf lettuce
- Iceberg lettuce
- Mixed greens
- Napa Cabbage
These vegetables contain antioxidants that give them their bright colors. They also have carotenoids, which may play a role in preventing many types of cancer, according to the American Dietetic Association.
- sweet potatoes
- squash, various types such as: acorn, butternut, winter
- red peppers
Legumes are known for being a good source of protein and fiber. Peas contain so many nutrients, they are grouped in both the vegetable and protein food groups by the USDA. Dry beans and peas are also good sources of folate, potassium, iron and zinc.
- Legumes - which include black, kidney, pinto, navy and garbanzo beans
- Peas - A few pea varieties are in this vegetable category as
well, such as split peas and black-eyed peas. Includes chickpeas
- Does not include green beans or green peas.
Starchy veggies fall into the complex carbohydrates category and are therefore counted as starch not vegetables for your daily requirements. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and potassium but should not be considered a way to include veggies in your diet.
- green peas
- lima beans- also known as butter beans
- white potatoes - Potatoes are not counted as a vegetable to fulfill your daily requirements, they are mostly starch and should be used sparingly.
Many vegetables do not fit the previous four categories because they have different nutritional contents. All of these foods fall into the "other" category -- and the list is extensive.
- green peppers
- green or string beans
Amount of Vegetables Needed
Your recommended vegetable intake varies depending on factors such as age, gender and activity level. The following amounts are applicable if you get 30 minutes of daily physical activity beyond your normal routine (i.e. moderately physically active). If you are more active, you should consume more vegetables.
- Women under age 50 should eat 2-½ cups of vegetables per day.
- Women over age 50 require 2 cups.
- Men under age 50 should consume 3 cups of vegetables per day.
- Men over age 50 should consume 2-½ cups.
Serving Size: What's in a Cup?
The USDA defines a cup serving of vegetables as 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 100% pure vegetable juice. For most fresh or cooked vegetables, 1 cup is just what you would put in a household measuring cup. For raw leafy greens, you need to eat 2 cups to get the equivalent of 1 cup of vegetables. In addition, two medium carrots equals 1 cup, as do three broccoli spears.
Here are some tips for including vegetables in your healthy eating:
- Add greens: Greens are packed with calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, vitamins A, C, E and K, and they help strengthen the blood and respiratory systems. Be adventurous with your greens and branch out beyond bright and dark green lettuce-kale, mustard greens, broccoli, Chinese cabbage are just a few of the options.
- Add sweet vegetables: Naturally sweet vegetables add healthy sweetness to your meals and reduce your cravings for other sweets. Some examples of sweet vegetables are corn, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes or yams, winter squash, and onions.
- Shop fresh and local whenever possible. The local farmer's market, fruit stand or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group are great ways to get access to fresh, local produce.
- Fresh seasonal vegetables tend to be less expensive and locally grown.
- Stock up on frozen vegetables, which can easily be prepared if you use a microwave.
- Having a main dish salad for lunch and beginning dinner with a large green salad are ways to increase your vegetable consumption.
- Avoid fried veggies and those with dressings or sauces, which adds too much unhealthy fat and calories.
4. Each day make a list of the vegetables you plan eat and aim to eat 2 servings of vegetables per day.
Whether fresh or frozen, canned, cooked or raw, vegetables provide a host of health benefits. Vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that may help protect you from chronic diseases. Compared with people who consume a diet with only small amounts of vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers.