Self-Care Challenge (Day 140): Eating 5 (to 9) Fruits and Vegetables

PeasEating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day may sound daunting (especially if you don’t like fruits and vegetables). But for those who do, it’s much easier than you might think.

Serving sizes have grown substantially in size over the years. Restaurants and food manufacturers are vying for our dollars, and one way to sway us is to convince us that we’re getting more for our money. 

Not surprisingly, these bigger helpings mean more calories–and that has created a weighty problem. Currently, more than 70% of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight (BMI of 27 or higher), and nearly 40% are obese (BMI of 30 or higher). 

But what about the athletes, you ask? It’s true that BMI isn’t a good measure of body fat–it’s a measure of body mass–which means those with large amounts of lean body mass, like body builders and athletes, often get incorrectly classified as being overweight or obese. 

Except most American’s aren’t athletes.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there were only 13,700 professional athletes in 2014–that equates to a minuscule .000042 percent of the population. Even if you include non-professional athletes (also a small group), it doesn’t pose a significant barrier to the identification of risk within the general population. For that reason, BMI is still a pretty good tool. (Plus, it doesn’t require uncomfortable testing like being dunked in a tank of water.) Suffice it to say there are many dots to connect when it comes to weight-related health risks.

Now back to fruits and vegetables…

Fruits and vegetables have been linked to a number of health benefits, in part because they provide a wide array of nutrients, but also because they displace less healthy foods. Essentially, when we fill up on nutrient-rich foods, we have less room for junk.

So what does a serving look like?

A serving of fruit is:

  • 1/2 cup of canned or fresh fruit
  • 1 small (4 ounce) piece of fresh fruit
  • 2 Tablespoons of dried fruit

In real life, this looks like:

1/2 medium to large banana
17 grapes
3 dried prunes
2 small tangerines
1 cup of raspberries

A serving of vegetables is:

  • 1/2 cup cooked vegetables or vegetable juice
  • 1 cup raw vegetables

In real life, this looks like:

1/2 cup steamed Brussels sprouts
1 cup raw cucumber slices
1/2 cup grilled zucchini
1 cup raw carrot sticks
1 cup mixed salad greens 

On a side note, I’ve rarely seen a salad that contained just one cup of lettuce or mixed greens–most are probably anywhere from two to four servings. (And that’s good news!) If you eat a whole, large banana with your breakfast, that’s two servings. If you eat a salad for lunch (which is probably roughly 3 servings), that’s five right there! 

It’s also important to point out–especially if you are managing diabetes–that starchy vegetables contain more carbohydrates than their non-starchy counterparts, so make sure to count correctly if you follow a specific meal pattern. 

The best approach is to incorporate a wide variety of plants into your self-care plan.

How do you get your 5 to 9?

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