Add More Vegetables to Your Family's Daily Diet

Boost daily veggie intake with these ideas for every meal.

Girl eating carrot as part of daily diet
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Did you know your daily diet should include at least five servings of fruits and vegetables (one and a half to two cups of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables per day)? That's the recommendation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for adults; amounts are slightly lower for children under nine years old. And yet research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that most people fall way behind on this guideline.

Only about 13% of adults eat their recommended amount of daily veggies.

For your best shot at getting your five-a-day, eat vegetables all day, instead of waiting for the evening meal. Here's how:

Add Vegetables to Breakfast

Starter level: Put spinach or kale leaves in your smoothies (kids won't even taste them), or carrots or zucchini in your muffins. These methods probably won't add up to a whole serving; you need two cups of leafy greens for that, or one cup of other veggies. But you're making a start.

Intermediate level: Mix vegetables into your scrambled eggs or omelets, or top toast with sliced avocado.

Advanced level: Have a salad for breakfast.

Pack Veggies into Lunch

Whether you are eating at home or packing up lunches to go, make sure you include a serving of vegetables. Or better yet, two servings.

Starter: Pack a veggie side dish, such as raw vegetables, veggie chips or dried vegetables.

Intermediate: Stuff the sandwiches. Load them up with spinach leaves, bean sprouts, and slices of cucumber, tomato, and avocado.

Advanced: If you're packing, wrap up your veggie-full dinner leftovers. Or make lettuce wraps instead of sandwiches. If you're buying at a salad bar, skip the iceberg lettuce and cheese and fill your bowl with nutrient-rich items like spinach, cruciferous veggies, and legumes.

Aim for lots of colors in your salad; then you know you're getting a great variety of nutrients in your daily diet.

Make Snack Time Vegetable Time

Starter: Serve raw veggies as a snack, especially if it's close to mealtime. Kids often like sweet choices such as carrots, cucumber, bell peppers, or sugar snap peas, and accompanying dip. You can also make a snack platter with a few cut vegetable options, some fruit, nuts, and cheese. Kids love finger foods.

Intermediate: If you're serving dip with veggies, include some veggies in the dip: try tzatziki, salsa, hummus, or guacamole.

Advanced: Bring your own vegetable snacks when you’re away from home. To pack crudité with dip, place a small amount of dip in the bottom of a glass or plastic container, then stand up veggie strips vertically so one end is in the dip. Or pack a mason jar salad.

Add (More) Vegetables to Dinner

We often get most of our daily vegetables with our evening meal. Here's how to make the most of that dinner menu.

Starter: Let your family warm up to increased veggies by serving them salad-bar style, with lots of choices for pizza toppings, taco fillings, salad ingredients, and so on.

Intermediate: Does your recipe call for vegetables? Great: Double the amount. This works with soups and stews, marinara sauces, lasagna fillings, stir fries, and so on.

Advanced: Replace meats or grains with vegetables–for example, zucchini noodles instead of pasta or chickpea taco “meat." Instead of having a meat, a veggie, and a starch on your plate, skip the starch and replace with a second vegetable serving, such as mashed cauliflower or a baked sweet potato. Or have a salad along with a cooked vegetable side.


Moore LV and Thompson FE. Adults meeting fruit and vegetable intake recommendations – United States, 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Vol 64 No 26, July 2015.

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