If your brain automatically jumps to “5 a day” when you’re thinking about how many fruits and veggies you should eat, you’re not alone. But you are just a little out of date. The 5 a Day campaign originated in the 1990s, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have pushed it aside for a newer recommendation. Dietary guidelines for Americans say you should fill half your plate with fresh produce for every meal and snack, with the goal of eating 7-13 cups of daily fruit and vegetables. That’s a tall order, but it’s achievable. Read on to find out more about why—and how—you should shoot for 7-13 cups of produce each day.
Here’s Why You Should Eat More Daily Fruits and Vegetables
Hit 10 portions of produce per day, and you’ll literally live longer. Eating 10 per day will considerably lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, or premature death. If 10 is a lot to handle, never fear. People who consumed smaller amounts of produce each day still saw more benefits than people who didn’t eat fruit or vegetables at all.
The fiber in those fruits and veggies helps you feel satisfied and supports healthy digestive function. Fiber also balances blood sugar. Whole fruits and vegetables will provide lots of fiber, but this is one case when juice isn’t a nutritional equivalent.
Eating plenty of produce makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight because fruit and vegetables are low in calories. You’re less likely to indulge in sweets or fatty foods with your stomach full of healthy, fiber-filled produce.
Produce is also packed full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help your body thrive. To get the full range of benefits, try to eat fruit and vegetables from the full range of the color spectrum.
Here’s How to Eat More Daily Fruits and Vegetables
When it comes to volume, remember that all fruits and veggies are created equal. You can partake of frozen, canned, dried, juiced, or fresh produce and count them all toward your goal.
An easy way to up your vegetable intake when cooking at home is to amp up soups and sauces. Stir grated carrots and caramelized onions into pasta sauce, or load brothy soups up with handfuls of greens and frozen or canned veggies of your choice.
For maximum success, plan your meals. When you’ve planned out healthy meals and snacks, prepared them, and brought them along to work or school, you’re less likely to end up with cheese fries instead of salad. You’ll save money when you avoid eating out, too.
So you’re always ready to whip up a produce-heavy home-cooked meal, keep your pantry stocked with recipe-ready staples. Follow the link to a list of suggestions and add the items you know you cook with frequently to your shopping list.
If the prospect of downing 7-13 cups of daily fruit and vegetables is intimidating, find a way to add just one per meal. “Get into the habit of asking: what can I do that will add at least one portion of fruit or vegetables to this meal?” dietitian Azmina Govindji recommended. Simply open a convenient can of veggies or grab a piece of whole fruit to help you meet the new dietary guidelines.
Reaching the goal of 7-13 cups of daily fruit and vegetables can seem like a stretch—but keep the benefits in mind, put these tips to use, and you’ll be racking up 13 a day in no time.