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What Constitutes a Cup of Vegetable and Fruit? | How Can I Get My Kids to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables?

Image for produce in schools articleAppropriate fruit and vegetable consumption is important for good nutritional health and appropriate weight maintenance. Given the number of Americans who are either overweight or obese, it is all the more important to encourage children and adults to consume the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are a great low-calorie, low-fat source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, water, and other beneficial nutrients. The table below highlights the recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption for children who get less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity. If a child gets more activity than this, they may need more of the types of foods.

GenderAgeDaily Recommendation
Boys and girls2-3 years old1 cup (about 229 grams)
Boys and girls4-8 years old1 to 1-½ cups (about 229-345 grams)
Boys and girls9-13 years old1-½ cups (about 345 grams)
Girls14-18 years old1-½ cups (about 345 grams)
Boys14-18 years old2 cups (about 459 grams)
GenderAgeDaily Recommendation
Boys and girls2-3 years old1 cup (about 229 grams)
Boys and girls4-8 years old1-½ cup (about 345 grams)
Girls9-13 years old2 cups (about 459 grams)
Boys9-13 years old2-½ cups (about 575 grams)
Girls14-18 years old2-½ cups (about 575 grams)
Boys14-18 years old3 cups (about 690 grams)

What Constitutes a Cup of Vegetable and Fruit?

Here are examples of what is equal to one cup of fruit and vegetable, according to the USDA's Choose My Plate website:

  • Fruit
    • 1 small apple
    • 1 cup diced melon or melon balls
    • ½ cup dried fruit
    • 1 large orange
    • 8 large strawberries
  • Vegetables
    • 2 cups raw or 1 cup cooked leafy greens
    • 12 baby carrots
    • 1 cup chopped broccoli
    • 1 large tomato
    • 1 cup 100% vegetable juice

How Can I Get My Kids to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables?

The best way to get your kids to eat more fruit and vegetables is to set a good example. Here are a few more tips:

  • When preparing your child's meal, make sure that half of the plate is filled with fruits and veggies!
  • Start early. Introduce good eating habits to toddlers by putting servings of fruits and vegetables on their plates at every meal. Even if they reject them at first, they may eventually taste them.
  • Add variety. Keep a nice variety of cut-up fresh vegetables and fruit available for snacks that are easy to grab and eat.
  • Go for a dip. Kids love to dip. Offer vegetables with a bit of low-fat ranch dip or peanut butter and serve fruit with vanilla yogurt mixed with a sprinkle of cinnamon or fruit-flavored yogurt for dipping.
  • Shop together. Take your kids shopping with you, and let them help pick the fruits and vegetables.
  • Plant a vegetable garden. Encourage children to help maintain and harvest it. Even if you live in the city, gardening in pots or other containers can be fun and productive, and many greens can be grown indoors during the winter.
  • Be fresh. Buy a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables in season.
  • Make a smoothie. Try giving your kids a smoothie for a treat. Blend some yogurt, a banana, a handful of frozen berries, and a splash of 100% orange juice.
  • Make a trail mix. Use dried fruit, unsweetened cereal bits, and nuts (for older children only).
  • Consider camouflage. Put bits of carrot or zucchini into spaghetti sauce or muffins. Add berries and bananas to your weekend pancake recipe.
RESOURCES:

American Academy of Family Physicians

http://familydoctor.org

US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate

http://www.choosemyplate.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada

http://www.dietitians.ca

Health Canada Food and Nutrition

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/f

References:

Nutrition (pediatric preventive care). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated February 7, 2013. Accessed February 18, 2013.

Food groups: How many vegetables are needed daily or weekly? US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables_amount_table.html. Updated June 4, 2011. Accessed February 20, 2013.

Food groups: How much fruit is needed daily? US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruits_amount_table.html. Updated June 4, 2011. Accessed February 20, 2013.

Food groups: What counts as a cup of fruit? US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruits_counts_table.html. Updated June 4, 2011. Accessed February 20, 2013.

Food groups: What counts as a cup of vegetables? US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables_counts_table.html. Updated June 4, 2011. Accessed February 20, 2013.

Tips to help you eat fruits. US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruits-tips.html. Accessed February 20, 2013

Tips to help you eat vegetables. US Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables-tips.html. Accessed February 20, 2013.

Last reviewed February 2013 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


 
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