What’s in a serve? The veggie guide to help you reach your 5 a day

With Instagram feeds full of green smoothies and nourish bowls bursting with veggie goodness, you may think that we’re all doing better when it comes to eating our vegetables.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  Four out of five Australians  are not getting enough vegetables in their diet. A  recent study  found men, twenty-somethings, people who were unemployed and people who were overweight were most in need of increasing their vegetable intake. It showed young men in particular could do with doubling the amount of veggies they ate.

Vegetables provide a range of  health benefits, with most being low in kilojoules and rich in fibre and nutrients. As part of an overall healthy diet,  veggies may also lower the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases.

So how can you reach your daily veg goals? And just what does a serve of veggies really look like?

A serve of veggies is 75 grams and just what that will look like on your plate will depend on the type of veggies and whether they are raw or cooked.

  • For raw, leafy vegetables, 75 grams is 1 cup. So loading your dinner plate with 2 cups of salad will tick the box for 2 serves of veggies.
  • For cooked green or orange/yellow veggies, like broccoli and carrot, it only takes half a cup to make up a 75g serve. It’s also half a cup for sweet corn.
  • For potatoes, half a medium sized spud is a serve. The same applies for other starchy veggies like sweet potato.
  • For tomatoes it’s a medium sized tomato and for avocadoes it’s a quarter of the fruit (yes avocadoes are technically a fruit but they can also count as a serve of veggies).
  • When it comes to cooked beans, peas and lentils, half a cup makes a serve. That’s the case whether they start off fresh, dried or canned.

So what does 5 serves a day actually look like?

Breakfast — Wholegrain toast with a quarter of an avocado (1 serve of veggies)
Snack — Natural yoghurt with fresh berries
Lunch — Your favourite veggie soup and wholegrain toast and a piece of fruit (1 serve of veggies)
Snack — A handful of nuts
Dinner — Vegetable lasagne and two cups of salad on the side (3 serves of veggies)

These suggestions will also help to cover off your dairy, fruit and wholegrain needs too.

Here are some more tips to make it easier to reach your 5 a day:

  1. Veg Up: Consider the concept of ‘crowding’. If you aim to fill two thirds of your dinner plate with veggies, it will leave little room for other discretionary foods.
  2. Make friends with salad: A salad that’s packed with ‘yum’ will make it much more appealing. Try roasted and raw veggies for taste and texture, and top with nuts, whole grain croutons or a small serve of cheese like feta or haloumi to boost the flavour.
  3. Healthy swaps: Switch an afternoon muesli bar or muffin for some vegetable sticks (e.g. carrot, capsicum, cucumber) with a homemade dip. Prepare on a weekend so you have healthy, veggie packed snacks ready for the week.
  4. Secret serving: Veggies are actually really easy to sneak into any meal. It’s great for the kids, especially picky eaters, and you’ll get the benefit too. Pack your Bolognese with grated carrots, onions, mushrooms and legumes, or try pumpkin, spinach and capsicum in a breakfast frittata — helping you start the day with an extra serving.
  5. Eat the rainbow: Make your lunches more colourful by stuffing your sandwiches with veggies or bulking out pasta with all the colours. Think eggplant, asparagus and cherry tomatoes.