currents & waves

floating in an ocean of arts & humanities

how much fruit or vegetable is in a serving of fruit or vegetable?

i've been feeding myself successfully for long enough that i rarely give much thought to things like "food pyramids" and whatnot, but recently i revisited this middle school health class favorite after a friend of mine began talking about struggling to get enough protein in her vegetarian diet. since i was raised vegetarian and continue to follow a vegetarian diet with no detectable protein deficiency, i decided to start keeping track of the protein in my diet to see where it comes from and how much i get on an average day. happily, after a couple weeks i concluded that i'm easily meeting my requirements.

however, after that brushing up on standard nutrition recommendations and tracking my own typical diet, i found something else to fret over: portions! now, things like grains are easy--a slice of bread comes in a package with clearly marked stats. whole grains like rice and quinoa, cooked at home, are very easy to estimate (if the serving size is 1/4 cup uncooked and i cooked a cup of dry grain, i know i cooked 4 servings and have no problem estimating a quarter of the total cooked product). but when it comes to fruits and vegetables, all bets are off.

i don't keep a scale around the kitchen, so how many grams of apple i just ate is a mystery to me. and cups of cherries? is that whole cherries that still have pits in them sitting in a measuring cup? that seems so imprecise. the size and contour alone could drastically alter how much edible fruit fits into a cup. heck, the shape of the cup could impact how much fits in it. and how about greens? apparently the mixed greens i used in my salad today come one 50 gram serving to the 2.5 cups. but is that 2.5 loosely tossed cups? or lightly packed cups? if i sandwiched it between two slices of bread it would take up significantly less space.

and then, some recommendations are as broad and vague as to say half a cup of vegetables is one serving. if that's true, i could easily meet my "5 a day" with one big lunch salad. but, the bag of salad mix tells me that same salad is only one serving! and how is half a cup of coleslaw (all that shredded cabbage sitting nice and compact) any match for half a cup of steamed broccoli and cauliflower (with all that negative space between the florets and stems)?

see what i'm saying? how helpful is it to know how many servings i should eat if i can't figure out a true serving size?

luckily i really like fruits and vegetables and can safely meet and easily exceed the food pyramid's recommendations while sticking with my old ways of eating some sort of fruit and/or vegetable with each meal, and eating a wide variety throughout each day.

Published Thursday, July 10, 2008 2:45 PM by emcee christmas
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