by Ashley Giddens, MS RD/LD
Q: Am I really supposed to eat nine fruits and vegetables each day? How is that possible?
A: The answer largely depends on your age, if you are a male or female, your height, weight, and your level of physical activity. I would also like to encourage you to think about your fruits and vegetables in terms of cups per day, which makes getting all the recommended fruits and vegetables seem much more achievable.
For women who get about 30 minutes or less of physical activity each day, 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit are recommended and 2 to2 ½ cups of vegetables are recommended daily. For men, about 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables are suggested.
Also, it is important to realize what equals 1 cup. Examples are 1 small apple, orange, or banana, about 12 baby carrots, 1/8 cantaloupe wedge, or 1 cup 100% juice. Also, consider the cooking process and how it softens your vegetables. Therefore, 1 cup of raw vegetables is about equal to 1/2 cup cooked vegetables.
Your other question, which is a good one, is how can one possibly eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day? A good place to start is to visualize your plate at each meal. Try to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. You can make salads tasteful and interesting by incorporating a variety of chopped vegetables and fruits. Try a home-made vegetable pizza or chop up carrots, celery and onion to add flavor to your soups.
Remember that some fruits do not require refrigeration. Stash an apple or banana in your purse or bag to have a handy snack during the day. Also, remember the microwave is a useful tool if you are unable to eat raw vegetables and find it difficult to use the stove or oven at home.
You already know that fruits and vegetables are important, but here are some reasons why: These foods are a good source of fiber, which is helpful with bowel function, lowering cholesterol and risk for heart disease, and helps you to feel full on fewer calories. Fiber can also aid in control of blood glucose levels for those with diabetes.
Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E will guard healthy cells from damage, protecting your body against infection and disease. Potassium can reduce the incidence of bone loss with age. Magnesium is helpful to maintain healthy bones and heart.
Visit www.myplate.gov for a helpful online tool.
For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.