Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

How much in a day?

Vegetables are nutrition powerhouses. They include many of the vitamins we need as well as fiber. Vegetables come in every color of the rainbow, and it is important to choose a variety because different colors contain different nutrients. Typically, the darker the color, the more nutrition. Most of us don’t eat enough dark green and orange vegetables, so make a point of working those into your meal plans.

Daily Recommendation*
Children 2-3 years old: 1 cup
4-8 years old: 1.5 cups
Girls 9-13 years old: 2 cups
14-18 years old: 2.5 cups
Boys 9-13 years old: 2.5 cups
14-18 years old: 3 cups
Women 19-30 years old: 2.5 cups
31-50 years old: 2.5 cups
51+ years old: 2 cups
Men 19-30 years old: 3 cups
31-50 years old: 3 cups
51+ years old: 2.5 cups 

*These amounts are appropriate for individuals who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity beyond normal daily activities. Those who are more physically active may be able to consume more while staying within calorie needs. Source: ChooseMyPlate

Pack and go! 

Vegetables are nature’s original fast food. When it’s snack time, grab baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli or some peppers. Try dipping your vegetables in low fat or nonfat dip.

Video/Handout

How to decide how many fruits and vegetables you need | Handout

 

Storing and Discarding

  • Store vegetables and fruits in separate drawers in the refrigerator to protect them from bruising and to help control moisture. In general, fruits like low humidity and vegetables like high humidity.
  • Keep an eye on your veggies throughout the week so you can use them before they lose their quality. To use up veggies, add them to soup or stir fry. You can also roast or steam them to serve at your next meal. If you can’t finish all of your cooked veggies, they can be frozen in an air tight container.
  • Create a ready-for-soup container. Label a freezer bag and add chopped broccoli stems, cauliflower core, leftover onion, green pepper, mushrooms, or cooked vegetables as available. Add them to canned, frozen, or homemade soup.

Video/Handout

Storing fruits and vegetables | Handout

Fresh

  • Buy fresh vegetables in season. They cost less and are likely to be at their peak flavor. When not in season, frozen or canned versions are often a smarter buy. For example, buy fresh sweet corn in the summer but frozen or canned corn during other months. Rinse vegetables before preparing or eating them. Under clean, running water, rub vegetables briskly with your hands or a vegetable brush to remove dirt and germs. Dry with paper towels after washing.
  • Consider price and your own preferences when deciding whether to buy organic vegetables. They tend to cost more and research has not proven them to be nutritionally superior. Get more tips from the fresh vegetable guide.

Frozen

  • Commercially frozen products are frozen within hours of picking and tend to retain more flavor. They also have less sodium than canned.
  • Buy plain frozen vegetables instead of those with special sauces or seasonings, which can add calories, fat and sodium, as well as cost.
  • Compare prices and convenience when choosing package size. Bags offer the advantage of using just what you need.

Canned

  • Consider store brands; they are usually lower priced and often packed by the same manufacturers as name brands.
  • Choose the product most appropriate for your needs. For example, buy the least expensive chopped tomatoes for a soup or stew because they will be mixed with other ingredients.
  • Drain and rinse canned vegetables to reduce the sodium.
  • Supermarkets are full of new convenience items: meals to go, chopped, peeled and washed vegetables, and individually-packed snacks. But is the convenience worth the cost?

There are a few things to consider before making your decision.

  • How much waste is there? If you are buying fresh carrots or broccoli, consider that you’ll pay for the entire weight, but you’ll throw away the stems/peels.
  • How much time will it save overall? Don’t just consider the cooking time but preparation and clean up as well. Will you be in a big rush this week?
  • Is nutrition different? One downfall of some convenience foods is the amount of sodium, fat or sugar added. Check that the convenience has not thrown your good health intentions out the window.

Here is some information about a few items that you may be tempted to buy pre-cut.

  • Salads Pre-packaged lettuce and spinach are usually more expensive than buying bunch greens to wash at home. Pre-washed greens save time, but they also tend to spoil quickly after opening. Try other green salads, such as chopped cabbage or broccoli slaw mixed with lowfat dressing.
  • Carrots — Pre-packaged baby carrots usually cost at least twice as much as regular carrots. Trade time for dollars by peeling, washing and cutting your own. Refrigerate in airtight containers or bags; sprinkle with water if they start to look dry.
  • Potatoes A five-pound bag has 12 to 15 potatoes — enough for three meals for a family of four. A similarly priced package of pre-chopped or mashed potatoes typically has only four servings.

Videos/Handouts

Links