According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, adults should eat about 5 serves of vegetables for good health (1). However, only 7.5% of the adult population manage to meet their recommended target (2). Part of the problem is that some people don’t like vegetables, but it’s also true that many people don’t know how to eat more vegetables.
How many serves of vegetables
For most of the population from the age of 9, the recommended number of serves is around 5 serves per day. This varies based on gender (males need more) and life stage (pregnant and lactating women need more). Likewise, more active individuals, such as athletes, need more. The tables below show the recommended serves of vegetables for adults and children broken down by population group (data from 1).
What is a serve
A standard serve of vegetables for the purposes of the guidelines is about 75g or:
- ½ cup cooked vegetables, including legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and corn
- 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables
- ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables (sweet potato, taro or cassava)
- 1 medium tomato (2)
Note that sedentary and moderately active individuals should eat at least twice as much non-starchy vegetables than starchy ones. This is especially important for people with metabolic conditions such as insulin resistance, diabetes, PCOS, overweight and obesity.
Also, even though avocados and tomatoes are fruits they count toward your vegetable intake. The same goes for legumes such as beas, peas, lentils and chickpeas and corn, which is technically a grain.
How to eat more vegetables
Let’s say this is what you eat in a given day:
|Breakfast||2 Weetbix + 200 ml milk|
|Morning tea||Flat white + banana|
|Lunch||Chicken & salad sandwich|
|Afternoon tea||Cup of tea + 2 Tim Tams|
That’s a grand total of 1.5 serves of veg for the day. How can you workshop this?
- Buy vegetables in season as they are at the peak of freshness and nutritional value, and also cheaper
- Subscribe to a farm-fresh mixed vegetable box
- Frozen vegetables are fine, some canned vegetables/legumes are fine (mainly beans, lentils, chickpeas and corn)
- Eat a savoury breakfast. Egg-based breakfasts are particularly good for adding vegetables such as tomatoes (raw or grilled), leafy greens, sautéed mushrooms, etc. Other options are avocado toast, baked beans and vegan bowls.
- Add vegetables to your morning smoothie, e.g. baby spinach or kale, avocado
- If you have a good juicer or Nutribullet, make a vegetable juice (with optional fruit). Vegetables that work well in juices are carrots, beetroot, celery and dark leafy greens.
- Eat leftovers for breakfast
Morning and afternoon tea
- Eat a vegetable-based dip (e.g. hummus or guacamole) with vegetable sticks or slices (carrots, celery, cucumber, radishes, etc.)
- Instead of banana bread or other sweet baked good, choose a savoury muffin or frittata slice with vegetables
- Eat rice cakes or wholemeal/multigrain toast with avocado
- Because it’s hard to stuff enough vegetables in a sandwich, add a side salad or vegetable soup to your sandwich
- Eat a salad with some protein
- Eat leftovers from dinner
- If you buy your lunch, choose an option with vegetables and protein such as:
- Supermarket: roast chicken + salad, salad bowl + can of tuna
- Takeaway: stir-fry with vegetables and protein, kebab/gyro meat with salad, poke bowl with half or no rice and plenty of vegetables
- Pub: steak/grilled fish with salad (no chips) or mash and steamed vegetables
- If you are eating a piece of meat or fish, eat it with steamed/roasted vegetables and/or salad
- Add vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale, grated zucchini, grated carrot, sliced mushrooms) and/or legumes (e.g. lentils, beans, chickpeas) to your pasta, stew, curry or soup
- Make a stir-fry with vegetables and protein and basmati rice
|Breakfast||Smoothie (milk + 1 1/2 cup baby spinach + 1/2 banana + 1/2 cup frozen blueberries)|
|Breakfast||Omelette made with 2 eggs + 1 medium tomato + 1 cup sautéed mushrooms + toast|
|Breakfast||Avocado toast (made with 1/2 avocado) topped with 1 sliced medium tomato and 2 poached eggs|
|Morning tea||Flat white + savoury muffin with vegetables|
|Morning tea||Flat white + 2 rice cakes with 1 small avocado|
|Lunch||Ham & cheese sandwich + 1 cup garden salad|
|Lunch||Ham & cheese sandwich + 1 cup pumpkin soup|
|Lunch||2 cups garden salad with avocado and tuna|
|Afternon tea||Cup of tea + 1/3 cup hummus + 1 carrot cut into sticks|
|Dinner||Spaghetti bolognese with vegetables|
|Dinner||Stir-fry with chicken and vegetables + basmati rice|
|Dinner||Steak + 2 cups roasted vegetables (potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, broccoli)|
|Dinner||Roast chicken + 2 cups steamed frozen vegetables (broccoli, carrot, corn)|
Also make sure to check out my recipes for more inspiration.
- National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2013.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. Table 12.3 Consumption of fruit, vegetables, and sugar sweetened and diet drinks – Australia, Proportion of persons [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2020 Dec 30]. Available from: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/national-health-survey-first-results/2017-18/4364055001do012_20172018.xls