Confused About the Serving Sizes of Vegetables?

The USDA says half of your diet should be fruits and vegetables, but exactly how much is that?

According to the USDA’s new MyPlate guidelines, half of your plate—and your diet for that matter—should be fruits and vegetables. We couldn’t agree more! Vegetables are one of the top anti-cancer foods.

Recent research also suggests that certain vegetables may help increase breast cancer survival rates. This China-based study found that women who regularly ate cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower had lower mortality rates and were less likely to have their cancer return.

This latest study is only one more piece of evidence that vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet—particularly for women who want to reduce their breast cancer risk. When it comes to eating vegetables, though, how many servings should we eat per day, and what exactly is a “serving?”

How Many Servings of Vegetables Should You Eat To Reduce Your Risk of Cancer?

The USDA’s suggestion of three vegetable servings a day should be regarded as a minimum. Three servings a day is sufficient for older women and young children, but active women and teens should eat at least four daily servings of vegetables. Men and teenage boys need five vegetable servings each day. To reduce your risk of cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends 5 servings of fruit and vegetables, or two and a half cups.

What Is A Serving of Vegetables?

Do two baby carrots count as a serving?  A whole tomato? One cup of fresh spinach is a serving, but what if it’s steamed? Serving sizes can get a little confusing. The general rule of thumb is that a one-half cup of vegetables or one cup of green leafy vegetables equals a serving. So a serving of vegetables might consist of:

  • Ten baby carrots
  • Five broccoli florets
  • One Roma Tomato
  • One ear of corn
  • Half of a sweet potato
  • A cereal bowl full of fresh spinach, kale, or other salad greens
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
  • Half an avocado
  • 5 spears of fresh asparagus (or 7 spears canned)
  • A handful of snow peas or sugar snap peas
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of cooked spinach
  • 1/3 a large eggplant
  • Half a large zucchini
  • 7 Cherry tomatoes

Choose fresh vegetables whenever possible and try to minimize the amount of butter or other fats you add. Our recipes can give you some creative ideas for incorporating vegetables into your diet.

Remember that different colors of vegetables have different nutrients. For example, dark green vegetables are rich in Vitamin K. Yellow vegetables are high in beta-carotene, and red vegetables are high in heart-healthy lycopene. For the most dietary benefits, eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Try to include a variety of different colored vegetables in your diet and be sure to choose dark green leafy vegetables several times a week.

What are your favorite ways to incorporate more vegetables in your diet? We’d love to hear your favorite tips, tricks and recipes in the comments below.