How Many Cups of Vegetables Do You Need Per Day?

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Recommended Daily Servings by Age

Eating vegetables is essential at every age.
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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.

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Toddlers: 1 Cup Per Day

Toddlers need about one cup of vegetables per day.
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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.

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Children: 1 to 1 1/2 Cups Per Day

Children need 1 to 1.5 cups of vegetables every day.
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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 daily. 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 are higher in calories.

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Teens: 2 1/2 to 3 Cups Per Day

Teens need up to 3 cups of vegetables every day.
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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 daily. 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.

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Adults: 2 1/2 to 3 Cups Per Day

Adults need up to 3 cups of vegetables every day.
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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.

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What Counts as a Cup?

Example of a serving of broccoli.
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For most vegetables, one cup is equal to the amount that will fill a one-cup measuring cup. But one serving of raw leafy greens like spinach and lettuce is two cups, and eight ounces of vegetable or tomato juice also counts as a one-cup serving.

But what if you don't have a measuring cup or kitchen scale 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

Or see this list of fruit and vegetable serving sizes.

Source:

United States Department of Agriculture, MyPlate. "All About the Vegetable Group." 

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