Fitting fruits and vegetables into your day

December 16, 2010 By May Harter, registered dietitian

Scientific evidence suggests that eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day may help protect against heart disease, stroke and some cancers, including breast and colon cancer. Folic acid, found in many fruits, green vegetables and beets, has been shown to help prevent birth defects. Five servings may sound like a lot, but it's easier than you might think to fit them into your day. It just requires a little planning. Look at the sample menus below, and see how quickly the servings add up!

How big is a serving?
The following are adult servings of common fruits and vegetables (portions for children are typically one tablespoon for each year in age):

Raw, canned or cooked vegetable or fruit -1/2 cup
Raw, leafy vegetables - 1 cup
Potato -1 medium
Apple, banana, orange, pear - 1 medium
Grapefruit - 1/2 cup
Raisins, dried fruit - 1/4 cup

Adult's menu - Food & Serving amounts
Cereal and skim milk
1/2 banana – 1 serving
3/4 cup orange juice* - 1 serving
*A note about juice: It's OK to have some juice, but if you have fruit instead, that's even better. Fruit will provide you with more fiber, which helps you feel more full. If you're going to have juice, limit yourself to no more than 4 ounces (1/2 cup) or 8 ounces (1 cup) per day.

1 cup vegetable soup -1 serving

Fruit (small apple or1/2 cup fresh fruit salad) – 1 serving

Broiled chicken
Medium baked potato -1 serving
1/2 cup steamed broccoli – 1 serving
Small tossed salad- 1 serving

Fresh fruit tart – 1 serving
Total – 8 servings

Child's menu
Cereal and milk
Berries or 1/2 banana -1 serving

Celery sticks with peanut butter – 1 serving

1/2 sandwich
Fruit salad – 1 serving

Vegetables and dip – 1 serving

Spaghetti with tomato sauce (you can up the vegetable content by sneaking a carrot or other vegetable into the sauce) – 1 serving

Fresh strawberries and low-fat yogurt - 1 serving
Total – 6 servings

When incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet, be sure to eat a variety of different-colored fruits and vegetables daily. Red-strawberries; orange-sweet potatoes; blue-blueberries; green-broccoli; yellow-bananas. Think “rainbow!”

May Harter is a registered dietitian at The Hospital of Central Connecticut.