The number keeps rising! I remember 4-5 a day, then 5-8, and now it’s 11. That’s the currently recommended number of daily fruit and vegetable servings.
This new recommendation comes from the most recent OmniHealth study, which follows various diets (higher-protein, higher-carb, higher-healthy fat) for blood pressure and cholesterol improvements. (For a full description, see Nutrition Action, October, 2009, http://www.cspi.org).
Even if you’re not hypertensive or pre-hypertensive, you’ll keep hearing “more vegetables” as the way to better health and weight. How do you get even 8? Well, keep in mind that a “serving” is usually only ½ cup. The Nutrition Action article suggests a 4-cup salad for lunch and a 4-cup stir-fry for dinner as one possibility. It also raises the idea of “vegetables as the new main dish.” I like this idea, though I realize that for many, it’s a big jump. Families with kids may find this particularly hard.
If you do think of “vegetables as the main dish”, recipes like ratatouille, curries, stir-fries, soups and stews work well. So do simple “gratins”—casseroles with vegetables topped with cheese and baked. For really fast meals, try steamed vegetables topped with cheese shreds or sesame seeds as protein. Or, put them in tortillas with beans and salsa. Mark Bittman, a New York Times food columnist, wrote about making pasta with sauces as the main attraction—in other words, a hearty, stew-like sauce with just a little pasta beneath. These can work nicely as vegetables-as-entrée vehicles. Look for his recipes in http://www.nytimes.com/archives.
Another potential solution to the “How can I get 11?” question: How about an added vegetable serving at each meal? That’s three extras right there. Add a fruit snack or two, and you’re up to five additional. In the summer, at least here in the Northeast, this is easy. Nice produce, gardens, and farmers markets supply us cheaply and well. As the weather gets colder, there’s apples and squashes and potatoes. Winter presents more of a challenge….but the important thing is to start where you can, and find ways to enjoy eating and cooking more veggies. Making some move in this direction makes sense for the new year ahead.