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Small Steps for Eating More Fruits and Vegetables

Updated: Nov 20, 2018

A new study published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates only 1 out of 10 adults are eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Federal guidelines indicate adults should be eating 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. Higher intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with reduced risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity.

Based on this information, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption should be a goal for just about everyone. But how do you know where to start? Think about your baseline for daily fruit and vegetable consumption and add one more serving. For example, if you are eating two servings of vegetables per day, try eating three servings per day. Once you have met this goal consistently, try increasing it. We often try to "shoot for the moon" when we experience energy around creating a new goal. This can lead to disappointment and a sense of failure when we are not able to meet the goal that was perhaps too great of a leap from our baseline. Working toward small, easily attainable goals allows us to experience success and motivates us to keep "moving toward the moon."

So what can you do to add just one more serving of fruit or vegetables to your daily eating pattern? Here are some tips below.

  • Bring a piece of fruit with you while you are running errands. Throw it in your car, purse or backpack to eat when hunger hits.

  • Store dried fruit (e.g., raisons, dried cherries or dried figs without added oil, sugar or salt) in your car to snack on when unexpected hunger arises.

  • Prepare a bowl of berries in the morning and snack on it throughout the day.

  • Add chopped apple or strawberries to your morning oatmeal or cereal.

  • Place a bowl of fruit on your counter and commit to eating one piece of fruit from it each day.

  • Bring an orange or grapefruit to peel and eat at an office meeting (where you are allowed to eat.) This will keep you alert and give you something to do with your hands...while getting in a serving of fruit, of course.

  • Add a hearty layer of greens to your sandwich.

  • Choose a side of vegetables or a salad (with low to no added oils) instead of french fries or chips when eating out.

  • Add a handful of greens to your fruit smoothie.

  • Snack on lightly steamed broccoli dipped in a mustard sauce.

  • Add spinach, kale, tomatoes, mushrooms and/or other vegetables to your pizza.

  • Craving pasta? Try a vegetable pasta (e.g., whole wheat pasta with zucchini, tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, garlic and basil sautéed in vegetable broth) in lieu of a red sauce pasta.

  • Roast a large pan of vegetables (e.g., peppers, sweet potato, onions, etc.) to eat throughout the week. (Add a cup of these veggies to a bowl of brown rice and beans and you will have an quick and healthy meal at your fingertips.)

And the list could go on. If you have additional ideas to share, please post a comment!

CDC (2017, Nov.) Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables. Retrieved from:

Lee-Kwan SH, Moore LV, Blanck HM, Harris DM, Galuska D. Disparities in State-Specific Adult Fruit and Vegetable Consumption — United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:1241–1247. DOI:

Wang, X., Ouyang, Y., Liu, J., Zhu, M., Zhao, G., Bao, W., & Hu, F. B. (2014). Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Bmj, 349, g4490.

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