It’s Easy to Add Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet
Eating lots of fruits and vegetables can help reduce your cancer risk. That’s one reason the American Cancer Society recommends eating at least 2½ cups of these foods every day. These foods contain important vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants and they’re usually low in calories. In general, those with the most color – dark green, red, yellow, and orange – have the most nutrients. Try to work in a variety of fruits and vegetables every day.
Trying to visualize ½ cup? A half cup of vegetables or fruit is about half the size of a baseball. Of course, the best way to know for sure is to use a measuring cup.
Eating at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day may not be that hard to do when you add these up during your day:
If you usually have cereal, slice a medium or half a large banana on top. Your morning juice counts, too. Try low-sodium, unsweetened 100% fruit juice or vegetable juice. Remember 4 ounces is ½ cup. For an alternative to cereal, pour half a cup of frozen berries into a cup of plain low-fat yogurt. Slice a banana on top or eat it on the run. With more than 1 cup taken care of at breakfast, you’re on your way.
Snack time is a great time to work in more fruits or vegetables. A single-serving container of applesauce, 5 or 6 baby carrots, or a small orange will add another ½ cup. It’s only the middle of your morning, and you’re more than half way there!
When you need a quick lunch, try a pita sandwich or wrap loaded with vegetables, or a cup of hearty vegetable soup. Either of these gives you at least half a cup – some will give you a whole cup. Add a small side salad with low-fat dressing, and your count just jumped to more than 2 cups for the day so far.
Even if you only have a few minutes, dinner veggies are easy. Heat canned or frozen veggies (without added salt or sauces) in the microwave for a quick side dish. Microwave a sweet potato and add a teaspoon of butter, a splash of apple juice or squeeze of lemon, and a light sprinkling of cinnamon and brown sugar. Any one of these will add another cup-size vegetable serving to your day, and now you’re getting more than the minimum recommendation!
Savor a frozen treat made from 100% juice or put ½ cup of melon slices, peaches, or other favorite fruit on a toasted whole-grain waffle and you’ve added even more healthy fruits to your day. A splash of maple syrup can add extra flavor.
Other tips to help you reach your goal:
- At each meal, fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables
- Enjoy ½ cup (4 ounces) of 100% fruit or vegetable juice once or twice a day. Mix with club soda or unsweetened seltzer water if you like fizz
- Layer lettuce, tomatoes, beans, onions, and other vegetables on sandwiches and wraps
- Add tomato sauce and extra vegetables to pastas and vegetable soups
- Choose a vegetarian dish when eating out
- Challenge yourself to try new vegetables from the produce aisle, frozen foods section, or your local farmer’s market
- Keep dried fruits and vegetable juice boxes in your desk drawer and glove compartment (but watch the sugar content!)
- Keep a bowl full of fresh veggies and fruits on your kitchen counter for quick snacking
- If you’re short on time, look for pre-washed, pre-cut vegetables, such as baby carrots and broccoli florets, at the grocery store
Last Medical Review: October 16, 2013 Last Revised: October 16, 2013