The latest Dietary Guidelines recommend that all Americans increase their vegetable and fruit intake. Fruits and vegetables provide a variety of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and fiber. They lower your risk of developing certain chronic diseases. They are also naturally low in calories, fat, and sodium, which can help to maintain a healthy weight. Since June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, it serves as a great reminder to include more in our diets.
How many fruits and vegetables should you eat each day? The USDA’s MyPlate recommendations are based on your calorie needs for your age, gender, and activity level. For a 2,000 calorie diet, you should eat 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables a day. To learn what your individual needs are, use the customized Daily Checklist on the MyPlate website.
What counts as a cup of fruit or vegetables? In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100 percent fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit counts as 1 cup from the fruit group; and 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered 1 cup from the vegetable group.
Before eating fresh fruits and vegetables, it is important to remember some basic food safety rules.
- When purchasing, avoid bruised or damaged produce and keep it separate from raw meat, poultry and seafood.
- Perishable fresh produce, such as lettuce, herbs and mushrooms, and all cut or peeled produce should be stored in the refrigerator at 40° or below.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.
- Produce should be washed under running water (do not use soap) before eating, cutting or cooking. Then, cut away any damaged or bruised areas.
- Always wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counters between prep of raw meat, poultry or seafood and produce.
Adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet may be easier than you think.
- Try topping your pizza with onions, mushrooms or peppers.
- Make sandwiches with spinach, tomatoes and onions.
- Use fruit as a topping for cereal, pancakes or waffles.
- Add vegetables to casseroles, soups, and stir-fries.
- Make a fruit smoothie or mix fruit into yogurt.
- Pack raw vegetables with dip for a snack.