How to Get 8 Daily Servings of Fruits and Vegetables

LAST UPDATED: October 10, 2017
Skip Navigation LinksPerformance Triad / How To / How to Make Healthy Eating Easy / How to Get 8 Daily Servings of Fruits and Vegetables

Get your eight servings a day

Consuming at least 8 servings of fruits and vegetables every day is a great investment in your health. Fruits and vegetables add variety, texture, flavor, and color to your meals and snacks. Whole fruits and vegetables are low in calories, and high in nutrients and fiber. They are considered nature’s first convenience foods—very easy to pack and go!

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of certain diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain cancers.

In addition, eating a diet that is high in whole fruits and vegetables is a great way to help maintain bowel regularity and control your weight (they help you feel satisfied without weighing you down).

Aim for 8 servings a day

Remember the fruit and vegetable zip code for good health: 2 2 2 1 1.

2 servings for breakfast

2 servings for lunch

2 servings for dinner

1 serving at mid-morning snack

1 serving at mid-afternoon snack

Choose mostly fresh and/or frozen fruits and vegetables without added sugars or fat!

What counts as 1 serving?

Knowing how much a serving size is will make it easier to get your eight servings of fruits and vegetables.

Single servings of fruits
Fruit Amount
Apple 1 medium (size of a baseball)
Banana 1 small banana
Canned fruit 1/2 cup
Diced fresh fruit 1 cup
Dried fruit 1/4 cup
Fruit juice (100%) 1/2 cup
Grapes 16 grapes
Melon 1/8 melon
Small berries 1/2 cup
Strawberries 4 berries
Single servings of vegetables
Vegetable Amount
Baked potato 1 small (size of a computer mouse)
Carrots 12 baby carrots
Cooked vegetables 1/2 cup
Leafy greens 2 cups
Pepper 1 medium whole pepper
Raw vegetables 1 cup
Vegetable juice 1/2 cup

How can I creatively increase my fruit and vegetable intake?

  • Add chopped vegetables to omelets (onions, spinach, peppers, mushrooms)
  • Add vegetables to pizza (fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli)
  • Make mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower (½ potato and ½ cauliflower)
  • Add pureed butternut squash to macaroni and cheese
  • Use spaghetti squash instead of pasta noodles
  • Keep a fruit bowl on your counter

Be adventurous – try something new

  • Orange/yellow star fruit, Asian pear, ugli fruit, mango, yam, pummelo, apricots, spaghetti squash
  • Red lychee, Chinese strawberry, pomegranate, beets, cherries, rhubarb
  • Blue/purple eggplant, purple carrot, dragon fruit, purple sweet potato, purple cabbage, dulse
  • Green/white kale, collards, spinach, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, okra, kiwi, garlic scapes, broccoli rabe, parsnips, jicama, white nectarines

Use smoothies to get your 8 servings

Build the perfect smoothie

Makes 32 oz. (4 cups). Freeze or refrigerate leftovers. Cut recipe in ½ if desired.

Step 1. Blend leafy greens and liquid base together

2 cups leafy greens

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Romaine
  • Swiss chard
  • Collards
2 cups liquid base
  • Water
  • Coconut water
  • Low-fat milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Almond milk
  • Diluted 100% juice (equal parts water + equal parts juice)

Step 2. Add fruits and blend again

3 cups fruit (mix and match/frozen or fresh)

  • Banana
  • Mango
  • Berries
  • Orange
  • Avocado
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Apple
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple

Is that the right color?

Some smoothies are darker in color—almost brown-like. The color of a smoothie depends on the combination of fruits and vegetables used. The cranberry kale and strawberry fields smoothie on the following page comes out a brownish color. A smoothie with blue berries as an ingredient will turn a purple color. Be creative with your fruits and vegetables. See what different colors you can create.

Storing left-over smoothies

Store your left-over smoothie in a glass container with an airtight lid. The 24 – 32 oz. glass mason jars work very well.

In the refrigerator: Fill the container to the very top to prevent nutrient loss. If you don’t have enough leftovers to fill the jar, use plastic wrap and push it down until you make contact with the top of the smoothie. Store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

In the freezer: Leave about an inch of room at the top. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow a frozen smoothie to thaw in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

Tips to make veggies taste better

Don’t like vegetables? It can be pretty hard to, “eat your vegetables”, if they just don’t taste good to you. Follow these tips and tricks to get the best flavor out of your veggies.

  • Cook just until tender crisp. When overcooked, their texture suffers and they can lose a lot of their fresh flavor.
  • Add a little healthy fat. Sauté your veggies in a teaspoon of olive oil or drizzle some sesame or walnut oil over your steamed veggies. Add a sprinkle of nuts or seeds to add more crunch and flavor to your salad.
  • Try them roasted. The dry heat of the oven caramelizes the natural sugars in the vegetables which enhances their flavor.
  • Use the right seasoning to take them from drab to fab! Add fresh or dried herbs, spices, garlic, onion, lemon, spray butter, or vinegar. Or, take them for a dip (try dipping fresh veggies in low-fat dressing or hummus).

Eat your vegetables raw

Try dipping them in:

  • Hummus
  • Low-fat veggie dip
  • Lite/Low-fat dressing
  • Nut butter

Try sprinkling them with fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

Try making your own veggie dip with greek yogurt:

  • 2 cups fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1 envelope ranch dip mix
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • Mix all ingredients together in a storage container.
  • Cover and refrigerate.
  • Cut recipe in half if desired.

Roast your vegetables

Dry oven heat caramelizes the natural sugars in vegetables which enhances their flavor.

Wash and prep your favorite vegetables:

  • If using fresh broccoli or cauliflower, cut them into florets.
  • If using Brussels sprouts, remove the outermost layer of each sprout, and then cut each sprout in half.
  1. Pre-heat: oven to 425°F.
  2. Season: While the oven is heating, toss the vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, and/or other herbs/spices of your choice. Spread them out in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet. You can also line the baking sheet with aluminum foil and then spray it with cooking spray for easier clean-up.
  3. Roast: Roast for approximately 30 minutes, turning once halfway through, until they’re browned and tender. Try this method with other vegetables like roasted beets, asparagus, or green beans.

Steam your favorite fresh vegetables

All vegetables will have different steaming times depending on their size and thickness.

Below you will find some of the more commonly steamed vegetables and their cooking times for both stove-top and microwave:

Steaming instructions for vegetables
Vegetable Stove-top Directions Microwave Directions
Asparagus 4 minutes for thin spears
5-6 minutes for thick spears
4 – 6 minutes
Broccoli florets 5 minutes 3 – 5 minutes
Brussels sprouts 10 minutes 7 minutes
Carrots (baby) 6 – 8 minutes 5 minutes
Cauliflower 6 minutes 3 – 4 minutes
Peas 3 minutes 1 – 2 minutes
Zucchini 6 – 7 minutes 6 – 8 minutes

Stove-top method

  1. Use a medium-large sized pot and a vegetable steamer basket or metal colander that fits inside the pot.
  2. Fill the pot with enough water to reach the bottom of the colander or steamer basket.
  3. Once the water comes to a boil, add your vegetables to the colander or steamer basket.
  4. Place a loose fitting lid to cover and cook. Position the lid so that one side hangs over the colander (just enough to let the steam escape).

Microwave method

  1. Place vegetables in a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Add just a little cold water.
  3. Cover with a lid or use microwave-safe plastic wrap (leaving one corner of the wrap open to vent) and cook on HIGH as directed above.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
P3 content on Flipboard and Cookpad
Flipboard Cookpad
STAY CONNECTED
Join the discussion
Facebook Twitter Pinterest YouTube
P3 PARTNERS
Working together for a healthy community
Army Medicine Human Performance Resource Center ArmyFit Guard Your Health Army Community Resource Guides