Vegetables are nutritious and low in calories, so they should make up a substantial portion of the diet at any age. They're rich in fiber, contain lots of vitamins and minerals, and the colorful pigments contain phytochemicals may have additional health benefits.
Unfortunately, most people don't eat enough vegetables. Use this guide to know how many cups of vegetables you and your family members need to eat every day.
One Cup for Toddlers
Toddlers from age two to three years should eat one cup of vegetables every day. That's one cup spread throughout the day, not one cup at each meal; one serving for a toddler may be only two or three tablespoons. It takes about 16 tablespoons to equal one cup.
Cooked vegetables are usually best for toddlers because children at this age don't always chew their food well so raw vegetables may present a choking hazard. Boiled, baked or roasted vegetables are better than fried vegetables, which have extra calories from fat.
One and One-Half Cups to Two Cups for Children
Boys and girls from age four to eight years old should eat 1 1/2 cups of vegetables every day. One serving for a small child may be only three or four tablespoons.
Girls age nine to thirteen should eat at least two cups of vegetables every day and boys of the same age should eat 2 1/2 cups every day. Kids who are active and get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day may need even more.
Children can eat a combination of raw and cooked vegetables. Steamed, baked or roasted vegetables are better than fried vegetables, which have extra calories from fat.
Two and One-Half to Three Cups for Teenagers
Teenage girls from age 14 to 18 should eat 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every day. Teenage boys should eat three cups of vegetables every day. Teens who are active and get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day may need even more.
Teens should eat a combination of raw and cooked vegetables. Boiled, baked or roasted vegetables are better than fried vegetables, which have extra calories from fat.
Two and One-Half to Three Cups for Adults
Most men from the age of 19 to 50 should eat about three cups of vegetables per day. Men over the age of 50 may only need about 2 1/2 cups. Men who get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day may need more vegetables.
Women from the age of 19 to 50 need about 2 1/2 cups every day, while women over the age of 50 need about two cups. As with men, women who are physically active every day may need more.
What's a Cup of Vegetables?
For most vegetables, one cup is equal to the amount that will fill a one-cup measuring cup. One serving of raw leafy greens like spinach and lettuce is two cups.
Eight ounces of vegetable juice also counts as a one-cup serving.
But what if you don't have a measuring cup handy? Here are some estimates:
- two medium carrots
- five or six broccoli florets
- one large sweet pepper
- one large sweet potato
- one large ear of corn
- one medium potato
- one large tomato
United States Department of Agriculture. "Inside the Pyramid: How Many Vegetables are Needed Daily or Weekly?" http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/vegetables_amount_table.html