Here’s What Five Servings of Fruits & Vegetables Per Day Actually Looks Like

Including a one-day RD-approved meal plan.

By: Bianca Peyvan, MS, RDN

Eating more fruits and vegetables is a key part of any good diet. Fruits and vegetables are filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plenty of antioxidants that help prevent the build-up of dangerous free radicals and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. They not only keep us satiated but have a wide range of health benefits as varied as the colors they come in.

But, while we all know fruits and vegetables are good for us, eating enough each day is much easier said than done. Not to mention, it’s hard to know how many servings of fruits and vegetables per day you really need. While the old adage is you need “5 a day,” we decided to take a deeper look to show you how to balance out your health and what five servings of fruits and vegetables per day actually looks like. 

What Is 5 A Day? 

Many of us grew up hearing the recommendation to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. On the surface, this is simple advice, but it’s led to plenty of confusion. 

After all, for serving sizes, what counts for fruit? What counts for vegetables? Does it matter if you eat more fruits or vegetables? Do the meals need to be spaced out? What happens if I fall short of 5 servings — are there health risks?

The list of questions goes on and on, so we figured we’d answer them and try to simplify your diet to help you have more balance.

What Counts as Fruits and Vegetables?

While we often think about fresh fruits and vegetables when it comes to getting in our daily dose, there are surprisingly many options that can count towards your 5 a day. 

Aside from adding plenty of fresh options to your diet, frozen fruits and veggies, as well as canned varieties, also count. With canned options, just be sure to opt for those that are canned in water with no added sugar and salt. Dried unsweetened fruit can also serve as a great snack or salad topper option. 

One serving of fresh fruit or vegetable juice can also count towards your 5 a day. The trick here is to stick to 100 percent juice that’s made with just juice and water and free from added flavors and sugar. 

Why 5 A Day?

The “5 A Day” campaign started with the World Health Organization (WHO). They made the recommendation based on research suggesting that 5 servings of fruits and vegetables can help lower the risk of major health problems like heart disease, stroke, and cancer. 

While it might’ve seemed somewhat arbitrary at the time, recent research suggests that the recommendation might be great advice. 

A study published in Circulation found that adults who consumed five servings of fruits and vegetables each day had a lower risk of overall death and dying from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer. 

However, the recommendation isn’t necessarily a clear recommendation for everyone. The USDA guidelines recommend somewhere between five to 13 servings a day based on factors such as your sex, age, activity level, and overall health. 

So, for someone following a 2,000 calories per day diet, that would include 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables. One thing to note is that the nutrients in our produce has gone down due to the quality of our soil, causing some experts to say we need even more servings today to meet our daily needs. 

The good news? Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables doesn’t have to be complicated and can be easier than you think.

How To Calculate Fruits and Vegetable Servings

A serving of fruits or vegetables is equal to 80 grams. If you think about it, you can see how easy it is to become confused by 80 grams of spinach (very light and not heavy) and how much different it’s going to look compared to 80 grams of sliced apples. But, in the eyes of the WHO and USDA, a serving size is standardized by weight — not how much food you consume.

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t weigh your food, but you might be able to recognize serving sizes in other, more familiar ways. 

What’s a “Serving” Of Fruit?

A serving size of most fruit is about ½ cup or one small piece. Canned fruit is ½ cup, dried fruit ¼ cup, and whole fruit juice is ½ cup per the American Heart Association. When choosing fruit, opt for those with more fiber, such as berries, apples, and pears that help support blood sugar control. Fruits higher in sugar include bananas or mangos, which still offer nutritional value, but you may want to combine with protein and healthy fats to avoid a blood sugar crash.

What’s a “Serving” Of Vegetables?

As a general rule, ½ cup of fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables is equal to one serving. Vegetable juice is ½ cup, and leafy greens and lettuces are 1 cup. Keep in mind that most lettuces are mostly made of water and don’t contain many nutrients. 

To maximize nutrition, try microgreens, which are a more concentrated source of vitamins and minerals. While all vegetables offer unique value, some are more nutrient-dense than others, which is why you want to vary your vegetables. Try to combine starchy or root vegetables with leafy greens as well to optimize your nutrient intake.

A Fruit & Veggie-Rich Sample Meal Plan 

Want to see what adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet would look like in real life? Here’s a sample meal plan that reflects nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day. 

Breakfast: a whole fruit smoothie consisting of ½ cup each of chopped mango and green apple with ½ cup celery and 1 cup of spinach, blended together with some water. 

4 servings of fruit and vegetables

Lunch: A salad of grilled chicken, 1 cup mixed greens, ½ cup raspberries, 1/3 of an avocado, and goat cheese. 

2 servings of fruit and vegetables

Dinner: Grilled salmon with quinoa with 1/2 cup steamed broccolini and 1 oven-roasted tomato. 

2 servings of vegetables

Snack: ½ cup sliced apple with 1 tbsp almond butter. 

1 serving of vegetables

Struggle to Get 5 A Day? Try a Smoothie

When looking for a simple way to get your 5 a day and add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, look no further than smoothies. They make a super simple breakfast, post-workout snack, or even meal replacement. Smoothies are great because not only are they incredibly easy, but you can toss in tons of fruits, veggies, and superfoods and get a nutrient-packed shake without having to cook. 

Smoothies are also ideal if you don’t like the taste of vegetables because when you sneak them into a smoothie, you rarely taste them. Spinach or kale, for example, might change the color of your drink, but they have a minimal impact on flavor. Load up a few cups, and you can check off your veggies for the day, all while enjoying a dessert-like drink.

FitOn’s Favorite Smoothies 

Breaky to Go Smoothie 

This delicious smoothie makes breakfast a breeze! It’s so delicious, you’ll think it’s dessert. Want to up the fruit content a bit? Add some berries! 


  • ½ banana
  • 1 tbsp oats, rolled
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 medjool date, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 1 cup ice cubes


Place all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until it’s smooth. 

Daily Harvest 

While smoothies are a go-to easy way to pack in some veggies, we totally get that you still have to actually gather the ingredients and decide on what ingredients pair well with what. So, if you want to simplify things even further, consider Daily Harvest.

Their smoothie line is not only drool-worthy, but you can literally have a smoothie (with added veggies) ready in minutes and with very minimal cleanup. Between the taste, ingredients, convenience, and simplicity, their smoothie lineup does not disappoint. There are flavor options for just about any taste preference, which is key when making a smoothie you’ll be excited to jump out of bed and enjoy for breakfast or blend up after a workout. 

Choose from exciting flavors like Chocolate + Blueberry, Mint + Cacao, Acai + Cherry, and Cacao + Avocado to take your daily smoothie to the next level. 

Power Protein Smoothie

This ultimate smoothie to start your day off right or to refuel post-workout. Full of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, this smoothie will keep you full between meals. Add an extra dose of veggies with a handful of spinach. 


  • 1 serving protein powder
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • ½ tsp stevia granules (optional)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • ½ frozen banana
  • ½ cup frozen berries (optional)
  • ½ cup almond milk, or milk of choice
  • ½ cup ice cubes
  • ½ cup filtered water
  • To serve
  • ¼ banana, sliced


Place all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until it’s smooth. 

Getting Your Fruits & Veggies is Easier Than You Think

Whether you aim for five servings or 13, getting in those fruits and vegetables can be less daunting than you once imagined if you line up all the ingredients. Set yourself up for success by purchasing portable whole fruit like oranges and bananas. Purchasing pre-chopped veggies can make it a breeze to make soup or stir-fries. Smoothies and soups are an excellent way to maximize both fruits and vegetables. Blending them makes it much easier to consume and take on the go. And last but not least, eat the rainbow! Getting a variety of colors will give your body the nutrients it needs to perform better.

Want more healthy eating inspiration? Join FitOn PRO for access to personalized meal plans, including recipes you’ll love to eat!