Despite the trendiness of Meatless Monday, the glamorous "vegetable butcher" at Italian megamart Eataly in New York, and the Pollanification of our diets, a staggering number of Americans still don't consume the recommended daily amounts of vegetables and fruits. How staggering? 93.6 percent of us don't hit our vegetable target, and 92.4 percent of us don't hit our fruit target, according to stats from the Produce for Better Health Foundation's State of the Plate: 2010 Study.
Why Should I Care About Rabbit Food?
This is why: People who get enough fruits and vegetables in their diet tend to have healthy weights, says Colleen Doyle, the director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society, and "weight is the key factor for cancer risk."
So How Much Do I Need to Eat Each Day?
The whole confusing and vague idea of eating enough "servings" has pretty much been scrapped, and now the powers that be (the USDA, CDC, Department of Health & Human Services) are talking cups. Yes, normal measuring cups—the kind you actually use in the kitchen. Someone who eats, on average, 2,000 calories a day needs about two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables per day, says Dr. Lilian Cheung, a lecturer in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. But individual needs will vary based on age, physical activity, and gender, so the easiest way to find out what's right for you is to use the CDC's online calculator.
So what counts as a cup of produce? We've created a visual chart based on data from the USDA and some chopping and measuring in our test kitchen. For most produce, the suggested one cup is directly equal to one cup of the given fruit or vegetable, but there are a few exceptions, like raw leafy greens (two cups are actually counted as one cup toward your daily ration of vegetables) and dried fruit (a half cup is counted as one cup). Don't panic—when all was measured and we had a visual frame of reference, four and a half cups a day seemed a lot more doable than we originally thought.
And while the USDA says it's technically OK, we are trying not to let french fries and juice count toward our fruit-and-vegetable allotment. Keep it real.
Vegetable Servings That Equal a Cup
Asparagus: About 4 spears
Beans, Cooked (black, garbanzo, etc.): 1 cup
Bell Pepper: 1 cup chopped or 1 large pepper (about 3 inches in diameter)
Broccoli: A generous fistful (tennis ball size) of florets or about 16 small florets
Carrots: 1 cup chopped or 2 medium whole carrots (6 to 7 inches long)
Cauliflower: A little less than a 1/4 head of florets
Celery: 1 cup diced or 2 stalks (11 to 12 inches long)
Corn: 1 cup of kernels or 1 large ear (8 to 9 inches long)
Cucumber: 1 cup sliced/chopped or about 1/2 of a medium cucumber (8 to 9 inches long)
Green Beans: 1 cup cooked (we counted: It's about 19 to 20 beans)
Greens, Cooked (kale, chard, etc.): 1 cup
Greens, Raw (lettuce, spinach, etc.): 2 cups (about two large leaves of chopped romaine)
Summer Squash: 1 cup cooked/sliced/diced squash or 1 whole zucchini (7 to 8 inches long) or about 1/2 of a large yellow crookneck
Sweet Potato: 1 cup mashed or 1 large baked potato (about 2 1/4 inches in diameter)
Fruit Servings That Equal a Cup
Apple: 1 small apple (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, a little smaller than a baseball)
Banana: 1 large banana (8 to 9 inches long)
Cantaloupe: 1 cup diced or about 1/8 of a large melon
Dried Fruit: 1/2 cup
Grapefruit: 1 medium grapefruit (about 4 inches across)
Grapes: About 32 average grapes
Orange: 1 large orange (a little bigger than a baseball)
Peach: 1 large peach (about the size of a tennis ball)
Pear: 1 medium pear
Pineapple: 1 cup chopped (a little less than 1/4 of a pineapple)
Plum: 2 large plums
Strawberries: 8 large berries
Tomato: 1 cup chopped or 1 large tomato (about 3 inches in diameter, about the size of a baseball)