As I’m getting more into my AFPA Holistic Nutritionist Certification curriculum, the more and more I’m learning about the science behind plant-based eating benefits. It’s pretty amazing the power of eating plants! I thought it would be helpful to show what eating 8+ servings of fruits + vegetables a day can look like. But first …
Did you know that eating more plants can …
- help prevent (and in some cases reverse!) some diseases, cancers & health issues? Like heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, Parkinson’s. So amazing, right? I highly recommend How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Gregor, who also is the founder of nutritionfacts.org, if you’d like to learn more. 
- help improve your gut health? Many fruits and veggies are high in fiber, which can help you become more regular, and help with your digestion. A healthy gut is a happy gut. 🙂 
- help boost your mood? There have been studies that show that eating more plants and less meat and animal products may be linked to less depression. 
- lead to living longer happier lives (in some cases)? Researching the Blue Zones for longevity and happiness (places throughout the world where people live the longest and are believed to be the happiest), people there have at least one thing in common: they eat lots of fruits and veggies. 
Aren’t plants so powerful?! The more I learn, the more amazed I am.
But how many servings of fruit and vegetables are recommended a day?
Have you ever googled how many servings of fruits and veggies you need in a day? The answers are all over the place. From 4-5; 5-13; 10 … And it’s confusing the different suggestions for servings or cups (are they the same thing?!) I found it hard to find a consistent recommendation across government nutrition organizations and nutritionists and health experts. Nobody seems to agree!
Here’s what I found out:
The USDA currently recommends between 3 1/2 and 5 cups of fruits and veggies a day for women between the ages of 31 and 59 . Beans, peas and lentils are included in that amount too. So, really that’s not a lot. Also, to note that 2 cups of raw spinach or greens equals 1 cup, according to the USDA.
Some nutrition experts suggest eating more. The American Heart Association recommends eating 4 servings of fruit and 5 servings of veggies a day . In How Not to Die, author Michael Greger, M.D., suggests eating 10 servings of fruits and veggies a day . The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics recommends 2 cups of fruit plus 2 1/2 cups of veggies a day . In Deeply Holistic, author Pip Waller suggests eating at least 8 servings a day. Other organizations suggest filling half your plate with fruits and veggies .
Confusing, right? I think what most people can agree on is that the more fruits & veggies you eat, the better.
The American Heart Association has some guidance on what a serving looks like. One serving can look like:
- 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables like spinach, mixed greens, kale
- 1/2 cups cooked leafy vegetables like spinach, kale
- 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned vegetables
- 1 medium fruit about the size of your fist (like an apple, orange, pear, banana, etc.)
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit like berries, grapes, chopped pineapple and melon
- 1/4 cup dried fruit
- 1/2 of a medium avocado, mango or grapefruit
- About half a potato or large zucchini
But I still had a hard time wrapping my mind around what 10 servings a day looked like. It sounded like a TON of food to me. So if you’re thinking the same thing, I want to show you how actually simple it can be, especially if you’re eating whole foods and plant based.
What 8 Servings of Fruits & Veggies Looks Like
- 3/4 cup of frozen mixed berries in a morning smoothie (1 1/2 servings of fruit)
- 1 cup of kale in a morning smoothie (1 servings of vegetables)
- 1 slice of avocado toast using 1/2 of a medium avocado and a banana (1 serving of veggies + 1 serving of fruit)
- Turkey sandwich with cheese, lettuce, tomato for lunch (about 1/2 serving of veggies)
- Veggie pizzas for dinner with cauliflower pizza crust topped with tomato sauce, mushrooms, bell peppers, olives with 1 cup of caesar salad on the side (about 3 servings of veggies)
TOTAL: About 8 servings (2 1/2 servings of fruit + 5 1/2 servings of veggies)
What 8 1/2 Servings of Fruits & Veggies Looks Like
- 1 apple diced in oatmeal for breakfast (1 serving of fruit)
- yogurt with 1/2 cup frozen blueberries for a snack (1 serving of fruit)
- Salad with 2 cups mixed greens and 1 cup other veggies like beets, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and avocado) (3 servings of veggies)
- a handful of baby carrots with hummus for a snack (1 serving of veggies)
- black bean fajita salad for dinner: 1 cup of mixed greens with grilled bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and topped with tomatoes and avocado (2 1/2 servings of vegetables)
TOTAL: About 8 1/2 servings: 2 servings of fruit + 6 1/2 servings of veggies
What 9 Servings of Fruits & Veggies Looks Like
- 1/2 cup of frozen mixed berries in a morning smoothie (1 serving of fruit)
- 2 cups of spinach in a morning smoothie (2 servings of vegetables)
- 2 cuties with lunch (1 serving of fruit)
- Leftover Tomatillo Turkey Chili with tomatillos, green bell pepper & onion (2 servings of veggies)
- 1 apple & peanut butter & chia seeds for a snack (1 serving of fruit)
- Sweet potato black bean quinoa salad with bell peppers, tomatoes, corn for dinner (2 servings of veggies)
TOTAL: About 9 servings: 3 servings of fruits + 6 servings of veggies
What 10 Servings of Fruits & Veggies Looks Like
- Scrambled eggs with 1 cup of diced bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms + 1/2 cup of grapes for breakfast (2 servings of veggies + 1 serving of fruit)
- 1 medium apple with peanut butter for a snack (1 serving of fruit)
- Fall Salad with sweet potatoes, butter lettuce, apple, dried cranberries, avocado, beets for lunch (1 serving of fruit + 2 servings of veggies)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened dried mango with a handful of raw almonds for a snack (1/2 serving of fruit)
- Cauliflower Curry (Pinch of Yum recipe) with butternut squash, cauliflower, tomatoes and onions over brown jasmine rice for dinner; (2 1/2 servings of vegetables)
TOTAL: About 10 servings (3 1/2 servings of fruit + 6 1/2 servings of veggies)
I hope you found this helpful to show how you can get some more fruits + veggies into your meals. And maybe even helped you realize that you’re already doing an awesome job fitting them into your daily diet. 🙂
Note: I used the American Heart Association’s serving size recommendations, and based the meal servings on my meal serving-size estimates.