Your parents probably told you to eat you vegetables as a kid, and now that we’re all adults now we probably actually want to try to eat our vegetables. And according to the USDA team at MyPlate, women should aim to eat about two and a half cups of the good stuff every day. (Of course the recommendation may vary from individual to individual based on specific needs.)
So what does the recommended daily serving of vegetables actually look like as part of a normal diet? Well, it’s first important to note that one cup of leafy greens counts as half a cup, because of the air. And don’t be to hard on your self over the numbers—just add more vegetables in where you can (At least you’re trying, right?) Hey, you might even be making your quota now without realizing it.
But if you’re looking for doable and delicious ways to eat more vegetables, look to the menu-planning, nutrient-achieving pros: registered dietitians. Here, seven RDs share their daily veggie diaries.
1. Add a small side salad to your dinner.
Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D., host of the Body Kindness Podcast:
- Breakfast: I try to find time in the morning to make eggs with spinach and tomato, ½ cup of each cooked. If I want something sweet, I’ll do a yogurt smoothie with fruit and 1 cup raw greens, usually a mix of spinach and kale.
- Lunch: My favorite is a “Rebecca bowl”—I named them after myself because it’s anything I like that I have on hand. Yesterday’s lunch had tuna, avocado, ½ cup chopped roasted vegetables (leftover from dinner), 1 cup arugula, and ½ cup chopped red cabbage. I made a simple dressing of olive oil, cider vinegar, and pepper.
- Snack: I love hummus, and I use veggies as dippers. Usually about ½ cup of raw cucumbers and carrots goes with about ¼ cup hummus, which is made with chickpeas, a pulse with fiber and vitamins. [Pulses can count as a vegetable or a protein serving.]
- Dinner: As a busy mom of two kids, our dinners need to be pretty effortless. A family favorite is quesadillas: We sauté shredded broccoli with red peppers and add refried beans and cheese to a flour tortilla. ⅓ cup salsa for dipping and a small side green salad gives us nearly 2 more cups of vegetables [total].
Total: About 4 ¾ cups*
2. Top a vegetable salad with even more vegetables.
Lindsey Pine, M.S., R.D., owner of Tasty Balance Nutrition:
- Breakfast: At breakfast, I enjoy eating an omelet or scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese, ½ cup chopped spinach, ¼ cup sliced mushrooms, and a heaping tablespoon of fresh tomatillo salsa.
- Lunch: Lunch consists of a salad with tuna packed in water or diced chicken breast, 1 cup mixed baby lettuce, ¼ cups hredded carrots, ¼ cup broccoli florets, ¼ cup black beans (beans can count as a vegetable or a protein!), ½ cup cooked sweet potato, pepitas, crumbled feta cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice.
- Snack: My afternoon snack is a smoothie made with 1 cup spinach leaves, strawberries, banana, milk, plain Greek-style yogurt, unsweetened cocoa powder, and honey.
- Dinner: Dinner is grilled salmon with chimichurri sauce, quinoa, and ½ cup of roasted cauliflower.
Total: About 3 ¼ cups*
3. Incorporate leftover veggies into your breakfast.
Emily Cope-Kyle, M.S., R.D. owner and consulting dietitian at EmilyKyleNutrition.com:
- Breakfast: Each Sunday I cook all of my leftover vegetables from the week and add them to a vegetable and egg quiche, so I get in a ½ cup of vegetables first thing in the morning.
- Lunch: I am a salad lover, so most days, lunch is a large 2-cup kale-and-spinach salad topped with any type of nuts, cheese, fruit, or lean protein.
- Snack: If you’re struggling with getting enough veggies in your diet, be sure to maximize snack time, as this can be a great way to get in a [½-cup] serving of carrots or celery, fresh peas, or cucumber slices.
- Dinner: I aim for a ½-cup serving of orange veggies, like carrots or sweet potatoes, paired with another ½-cup serving of any other veggie favorite, like roasted Brussels sprouts or eggplant. I enjoy this paired with a 3-ounce serving of lean protein or a double dose of plant-based proteins like beans, legumes, lentils, or whole grains.
Total: About 3 cups*
4. Throw a handful of greens into your smoothie.
- Breakfast: I add a ½ cup of baby spinach to my morning smoothie.
- Lunch: I have a salad with 2 cups of arugula and ½ cup chopped veggies, like radishes and carrots with white beans.
- Snack: My afternoon snack is ½ cup sliced bell peppers with hummus.
- Dinner: I’ll have fish, brown rice, and 1 cup sautéed kale.
Total: About 3 ¼ cups*
5. Load up your sandwich with veggies.
Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., author of The Small Change Diet:
- Breakfast: Honestly, I rarely have any veggies for breakfast! I first get them into my day at lunchtime.
- Lunch: I eat veggies typically as a topping to my sandwich, like tomato, onion and cucumber slices, plus several leaves of lettuce. It’s probably about ½ cup total.
- Snack: I don’t eat this every day, but I love ½ cup of carrots and ¼ cup hummus!
- Dinner: My dinner is where I pile veggies on: I start with a large mixed green salad with 1 to 1 and ½ cups, and then I eat a cooked veggie that takes up half my plate (a little over 1 cup).
Total: About 3 cups*
6. Toss veggies into a grain bowl.
Alissa Rumsey, R.D. and spokesperson for The Academy Of Nutrition and Dietetics:
- Breakfast: I start my day with either a smoothie that has 1 to 2 cups of kale in it, or an egg scramble with 2 cups of fresh spinach.
- Lunch: At lunch I have a salad that includes 2 to 3 cups of leafy greens, plus at least 1 cup of other non-starchy vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots along with some grilled chicken or fish and avocado.
- Snack: In the afternoon, I like to snack on raw veggies and hummus. I usually choose [a serving of] carrots or cherry tomatoes.
- Dinner: For dinner, I have a cup of beans or lentils with farro tossed with a cup of steamed broccoli or roasted peppers and onions plus a little olive oil.
Total: About 5 ¼ cups*
7. Consider veggie-packed sauces part of your daily count.
- Breakfast: The way I approach it is to aim for at least four different colors a day. I start a lot of my days with scrambled eggs with feta and two cups of spinach or a smoothie bowl with berries.
- Lunch: Lunch is often 2 cups of spaghetti squash with 1 cup of tomato sauce that I have prepped the night before. So good—it contains minimal calories and lots of fiber. Another option for lunch is 2 cups of spiraled zucchini with herb-infused olive oil and tofu (also made night before).
- Snack: For a snack mid-day, I’ll often munch on ¼ cup of edamame hummus with 1 cup of carrot sticks and red peppers. If I’m looking for something late night I like to go with 1 cup of red or orange bell peppers, too—they are crunchy and sweet and seem to do the job!
- Dinner: Lately, I have been obsessed with 1 ½ cups of shaved Brussels sprouts mixed with dried cherries and ½ cup of purple potatoes, cubed. Other options include grilled salmon with a sweet potato and 1 and ½ cups of steamed broccoli on top of lentils with tempeh, or a cauliflower pizza—the crust is literally just 3 to 4 cups of cauliflower!—with pesto sauce and 2 cups of leeks and mushrooms. With every dinner I serve a huge 3-cup kale or arugula salad in addition to the meal.
Total: About 8 ¼ cups*
*Remember—one cup of leafy greens only counts as ½ cup in your daily veggie count.