Author: Nishaat Patel, Accredited Practising Dietitian
Do you think you eat enough fruits and veggies per day?
It may surprise you to know that only around 51 % of Australian adults are meeting the guidelines for the recommended daily serves of fruit, and only 7.5 % are meeting the guidelines for the recommended daily serves of vegetables (1).
Why should I eat fruits and veggies?
Fruits and veggies are a great source of important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and can protect against chronic diseases such cancer, diabetes and heart disease. They are packed with potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and folic acid- all of which are very important for our health. Fruits and veggies are both great sources of fibre, which is an important nutrient to promote good bowel function, lower heart disease risk, and provide a feeling of fullness. Fruits and veggies are generally lower in calories, fat, sodium, and naturally cholesterol-free.
How much do I need?
The recommended number of serves for fruits and veggies varies according to age and gender. Generally, for healthy adults, the recommended number of daily serves are:
Vegetables (including legumes/beans)
19-50: 5 serves
51-70: 5.5 serves
70 +: 5 serves
All adults: 5 serves
(exception- Lactation: 7.5 serves)
All adult men and women: 2 serves
Source: Eat for Health (2)
Many people know the recommended number of serves of fruits and veggies, but not what exactly a serve may look like.
One serve of vegetables is 75g or:
½ cup cooked vegetables
½ medium potato
1 cup salad vegetables
½ cup legumes
One serve of fruit is 150g or:
1 medium sized piece (e.g. apple)
2 smaller pieces (e.g. apricots)
1 cup canned or chopped fruit
½ cup (125ml) 100% fruit juice
1 ½ tablespoon dried fruit (e.g. sultanas or 4 dried apricot halves)
Sources: Dietitians Association of Australia (3), Eat for Health (2)
Also remember that variety is just as important as quantity. Try to have different coloured fruits and veggies throughout the week – eat the rainbow! This not only offers your body a variety of nutrients from the different fruits and veggies, but also keeps things from getting boring for you!
How can I add fruits and veggies to my diet?
Sometimes, it can be difficult or repetitive to try to add these wonderful nutrient-packed foods to our daily diet. Try some of these tips to help you out:
1. Blend it up! (Smoothies)
Mix up a handful of any fruit combined with your liquid of choice (milk, water, yoghurt + water, etc.) in a blender. You can often add baby spinach, kale or other green leaves in if you don’t routinely enjoy eating them. Their taste is masked by the taste of fruits such as berries and bananas, and you still get the benefits! These can be great to make in the morning and drink on-the-go, or drink right after a workout to give you a boost of energy.
2. Add fruits and veggies to your baked goods to give them a nutritious boost
There are a huge variety of recipes out there that include adding fruits and vegetables in your baking. Try things such as zucchini bread, carrot muffins, etc. Remember though, that baked goods are still to be consumed in moderation.
3. Keep fresh fruits and veggies where you can see them
Many of us are guilty of doing a big shop of fruits and veggies, putting them in the fridge, and totally forgetting about them until they’ve gone bad. To avoid food (and money) wastage, and ensure you are getting the benefits of these foods, keep them visible either inside or outside the fridge (depending on the fruit/veg). Putting them in a bowl near your pantry is often a good way to remind yourself to eat them daily.
4. Include fruits and veggies in snacks throughout the day
Fruits and veggies can be combined with other foods (sources of protein or healthy fats) to make a more nutritious and enjoyable snack. These can be easily packed in a small container and taken to work or eaten while you’re on-the go.
Some options are:
1 apple + 1 spoonful of peanut butter/almond butter
1 cup of berries + 1 cup of low-fat yoghurt
1 cup veggie sticks (carrots, celery) + 1-2 tbsp. of hummus
½ avocado + 1 slice toast+ seasoning
1 handful mixed nuts + 4 dried apricot halves
1 cup strawberries + 0.25 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
5. Finds fruits and veggies that you enjoy
Not everyone needs to eat Brussels sprouts if they don’t enjoy them! Try to find fruits and veggies that you genuinely like, which will make it easier for you to actually eat them. Experiment with different colours, textures, ways of cooking, varieties, etc. You can also opt for frozen fruits and veggies, or canned versions (without syrup), which may be cheaper and will last longer.
Aim for the recommended guidelines of fruits and vegetables to help prevent chronic diseases, and get the important vitamins and minerals needed to help your body function well. Start slowly, increasing your serves of fruit/veggies by 1-2 per day, gradually increasing over time to meet the recommendations.
Happy Healthy Eating!
- Abs.gov.au. 2020. 4364.0.55.001 – National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18. [online] Available from: https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.001~2017-18~Main%20Features~Fruit%20and%20vegetable%20consumption~105> [Accessed 21 March 2020].
- Eatforhealth.gov.au. 2020. Serve Sizes | Eat for Health. [online] Available from: <https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/how-much-do-we-need-each-day/serve-sizes> [Accessed 21 March 2020].
- I’ve heard I need 2 serves of fruit & 5 serves of vegetables, but what is a serve? [Internet]. Dietitians Association of Australia. [cited 2020Mar21]. Available from: https://daa.asn.au/smart-eating-for-you/smart-eating-fast-facts/healthy-eating/ive-heard-i-need-2-serves-of-fruit-5-serves-of-vegetables-but-what-is-a-serve/
For more tips on healthy eating and exercise check out our Functional For Life Blog. As always if you are after health advice we are always happy to help. Head to our contact page and drop us a line to find out how we can help you improve your health and well being!
Ryan and the Functional For Life Team