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    You Ask, I Answer: Ideal Vegetable Intake?

    veggiesI am more than familiar with the “five a day” concept of vegetables, but is there such a thing as an ideal intake of vegetables?

    For example, are there guidelines for specific types of vegetables we should be eating?

    — Maria Purken
    (Location withheld)

    There most certainly are guidelines.

    Let’s first clarify the concept of “five a day” when it comes to vegetable intake.

    At recent lectures and talks, some people have expressed confusion with the notion of “vegetable servings”.

    “Five a day” refers to eating 5 half-cup servings of vegetables every day.

    FYI: while most vegetable servings are set at a half-cup, it takes a whole cup of raw leafy green vegetables (like lettuce, spinach, and arugula) to make a serving.

    In any case, of those recommended two-and-a-half cups of vegetables a day, here is how it should ideally break down, per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

    • One half cup of dark, leafy green vegetables
    • One half cup of orange vegetables

    The remaining one-and-a-half cups can come from starchy vegetables (i.e.: potatoes, corn) or other non-starchy vegetables (i.e.: red peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, onions, etc.)

    That said, I don’t like the nutritional tunnel-vision that can happen when one only considers daily intake.

    I find it much more helpful to take a “bigger picture” approach and consider weekly consumption patterns.

    I know from experience that there are days when I eat three servings of vegetables, and others where I might get as many as eight or nine.

    In fact, the actual guidelines are expressed as weekly — rather than daily — amounts.

    Bottom line, though, you want to make sure to get orange and dark, leafy green vegetables regularly!

    Remember, too, that two-and-a-half-cups is simply a goal.  It’s perfectly okay to have three or three-and-a-half-cups in one day.

    PS: Vegetable servings aren’t as daunting as some people think.  Consider, for example, that one of these servings is equal to ten baby carrots!


    One Comment

    1. Purnima said on March 14th, 2010

      What are other orange vegetables, besides carrots? Do sweet potatoes or winter squash count?

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