Why settle? We hear from national nutritional campaigns to aim for 5 a day – that is, to consume 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. But truth be told, we should set our sights higher – on the order of 7-10 servings a day for optimum health.
I can hear your exclamations through cyberspace, but honestly it’s easier than you think. What constitutes a serving size is actually pretty small: For most items, 1 serving equals ½ cup of the vegetable, chopped; for raw greens, it’s 1 cup, chopped. You might guess that I’m about to encourage you to double, triple, even quadruple up, and you’d be right. For example, if you’re steaming broccoli for dinner, instead of just eating a few florets, take 1-1/2 cups worth, and you’re instantly at 3 servings of vegetables for that meal.
Or, consider a large lunchtime salad. Start with 2 cups of raw mixed greens, and add another cup of other mixed vegetables of your choice: cabbage, fennel, beets (you can grate ‘em in your Cuisinart and toss them right into your salad raw!), carrots, sprouts… whatever you like. Did you count? That’s 4 servings of vegetables in one sitting. Add a spoonful of brown rice or quinoa, 3 oz of organic chicken (or better yet, ½ cup or more of any bean you like — red kidney and garbanzos go great in a salad), and a big handful of nuts or seeds (ideally raw and organic). Now you’ve not only have added high-quality protein, but enough heft to get you through the afternoon with steady blood sugar and without feeling hungry. You even get to count those beans toward another vegetable serving.
Another way to think of it, without counting? Fill at least half your plate with vegetables at both lunch and dinner, and you’ll surely be fueling your body well, and thanking it for all it does for you.
If you aren’t eating any vegetables in your diet, perhaps you won’t run right out and start with 5 servings in a single meal. If so, start wherever you are! Commit to 1 serving per meal, or even 1 serving per day, and when your new habit is settled, build on it.
Years ago I discovered a great way to expand my vegetable repertoire, in terms of quantity, quality and variety: I joined a CSA farm. CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” The idea is that you sign up directly with a local farm for the season, and then receive a box of vegetables weekly, fresh from the farm. There are lots of CSAs in the Seattle area to choose from. Personally I’ve had great luck with Helsing Junction Farm. Farmer ladies Annie and Sue have been at it long enough to have their act together, and they and their team grow great organic food. They generally harvest produce just the day before delivery, so it’s extremely fresh, and deliver to a number of neighborhoods around town. As a delightful bonus, they write a weekly newsletter about what they’re up to around the farm, with plenty of recipes to help you figure out how to get that new-to-you mystery vegetable out of the fridge and into your body. Treat yourself this summer! It’s an easy way to eat fresh, local, seasonal and organic fruits and vegetables.
May you enjoy luminous good health,
Dr. Deborah Epstein