Veggie Math

Math is funny. Sometimes numbers have absolutely no meaning to me. (My husband, who is a math genius, doesn’t think this is very funny). Other times, turning a situation into numbers suddenly makes everything clear. Doing veggie math was one of those “other” times.

Imagine that you want to feed your family two servings of fruit a day. And, for the sake of simplicity, let’s have both of those servings be small apples. So, for my family of seven, I would need 14 small apples each day. Which means, at my weekly trip to the grocery store, I would need to buy 98 small apples. Can you believe that?! 98 apples a week! I would buy Smith’s out of apples! And that’s not to mention the 6-8 servings of vegetables each person is supposed to eat per day. The math for that boggles the mind (and the pocketbook)!

When my sister pointed this math out to me, I was stunned! I thought I did pretty good. We always have apples and other fruits hanging around, I usually remember to cook some vegetables for dinner. We like to eat salads. But 98 apples?! I don’t have anywhere near that much produce in my fridge. I don’t think my fridge is big enough!

Only 27% of adults in the US are eating their recommended number of servings of vegetables per day. Teenagers are worse. There are lots of reasons: the time, cost, convenience, and the creativity to think of more than salads and cans of green beans.

So what is a serving? For most chopped fruits and veggies, ½ cup is considered a serving. For whole pieces of fruits and veggies, a small piece or half of a large piece is a serving size. For leafy greens, you need a whole cup for a serving. For those not so interested in measuring things or keeping track of what you’ve eaten all day, ½ of every plate or bowl you eat should be covered in a variety of produce.

And variety is very important! Each fruit or veggie has its own unique blend of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. To get everything your body needs to be healthy, you should be eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, usually broken down by color. My Plate (the new food pyramid, for those older than my children) recommends the following variety of vegetables per week (for adults): dark greens – 1 ½ to 2 cups; red and orange – 5 ½ to 6 cups; beans and peas – 1 ½ to 2 cups; starchy vegetables – 5 to 6 cups; and other vegetables – 4 to 5 cups.

So how do you eat so many fruits and vegetables every day? How do you stay creative with your meals? How do you eat on the run and still get your full complement of produce?

I don’t know! I’ve never done it! But this month – month 2 of my no-sugar year – is all about finding the answers to those questions. This month, in addition to abstaining from sugar, I am going to eat 8 servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day (or at least I’m going to try!) Anyone interested in joining me or sharing their veggie-rich recipes would be welcome.

Week 5 out!