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It’s Not Just Mom Saying… “Eat Your Vegetables!”

February 11th, 2011 - By Therese Madden




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We’re advised we need five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day — a lot! More than half of us fall short of that goal despite knowing more fruits and vegetables can decrease the incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Find ways to meet the minimum.

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According to the new dietary guidelines we should all being eating between 5 and 9 servings of fruits and veggies a day. I walked around at lunch time to see how people were doing. Here’s what one man said, “I try to get 5-9 servings, and it ends up being negative 2-2 servings.” And the man next to him agrees, “I definitely do not get 5-9, I don’t think anyone does, it’s hard work.” I did find one person who was well on her way, “so far today I’ve had oranges, green grapes, red grapes, raspberries, carrots, lettuce and a gold delicious apple.” And then there were some who couldn’t answer, for a very simple reason, “it’s hard to know what constitutes as a serving.”

Nicole Patience holding up 2 servings of veggies.

And this is a good point. Nicole Patience is a registered dietician at Temple University. She is used to answering this question with students who are eating and shopping on thier own, for the first time. She even has drawers full of plastic fruit and vegetables to demonstrate. She says, “we have some plastic corn, the peas I think look like one of the most realistic, this is a half of cup of peas.” Ok, so a serving of vegetables is a half of a cup, about the size of hockey puck.

Not always, says Patience, “a serving of fruit would be a small apple, like say the size of maybe a tennis ball. A serving of vegetables would be, if it’s leafy vegetables, one cup of vegetables.” Here is where things get confusing. So leafy vegetables like spinach and romaine you need a whole cup for a serving. But for other vegetables, like carrots and broccoli, you just need a half of a cup.

Speaking of confusing, there’s a commercial airing right now, a young girl is dressed like a Manwich sloppy joe sandwich and is on stage with the other kids who are dressed like vegetables. It’s the girl in the corn on the cob costume who speaks up to the Manwich, “hey you are supposed to be a vegetable…” Manwich: “there’s a full serving of vegetables in every manwich.” I described this commercial to dietician Nicole Patience, “oh she’s probably referring to the tomato sauce.”

There is tomato sauce in a sloppy joe. Patience says this amount of tomato sauce can count towards a serving, but, “eating vegetables that look like vegetables are probably going to leave you with a more nutrient dense, healthier eating plan.” But then, shouldn’t one serving of a fresh vegetable count for more than one serving? If the same amount of a processed vegetable is also a serving?

The plot thickens…

1 Response to It’s Not Just Mom Saying… “Eat Your Vegetables!”

Photo by Flicker user Chiot's Run / CC BY-NC 2.0



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Philly Food Bucks!
Philly Food Bucks are coupons that help ACCESS/food stamp customers save money on fruits and vegetables. Philly Food Bucks can be redeemed for $2 worth of fruits and vegetables for every $5 spent in ACCESS/food stamps at a participating farmers' market. Learn more about Philly Food Bucks at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health's recently expanded web site Food Fit Philly.com. Now also accepted at the West Oak Lane Weaver's Way Food Coop.