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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!

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    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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