The Harvard School of Public Health reports that an adult on a 2,000-calorie diet should consume about nine servings of produce each day, or approximately 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit. However, a 2006 study published in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association" reported that only about 40 percent of Americans eat at least five servings of produce daily. Including plenty of raw leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, endive, escarole and romaine lettuce regularly in your diet is a good way to help you reach your daily produce requirement. Add them to salads and slaws, tuck them into wraps or eat the leaves spread with a healthy dip like hummus or mashed avocado.
Serving Size for Adults
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate.gov, 2 cups of raw leafy green vegetables counts as one vegetable serving for adult men and women. Registered dietitian Sidney Fry says that for adults who exercise between 30 to 60 minutes each day, this amount fulfills about a third of a man's recommended intake of vegetables and just under half of a woman's requirement. A simple way to ensure that you're eating at least 2 cups of raw leafy vegetables daily is to eat a salad prepared with 1 cup of greens at both lunch and dinner.
Serving Size for Children and Adolescents
The recommended serving size of raw leafy vegetables is the same for children and adolescents as it is for adults -- 2 cups of raw greens, which is equivalent to one 1-cup vegetable serving. Children need fewer servings per day than adults: girls between 9 and 13 years old should have two 1-cup servings of vegetables daily, while boys of the same age should have 2 1/2 servings. Adolescent girls need 2 1/2 cups per day and adolescent boys need 3 cups. If you have children and teens reluctant to eat raw, leafy vegetables in salads, you can help them get enough in their diet by serving their favorite grilled or broiled poultry, seafood or meat in lettuce wraps, or by offering favorite dishes served on a bed of greens.
Recommended Weekly Intake
Although you should try to eat as wide a variety of vegetables each day as possible, the USDA assures that you don't need to worry about eating raw leafy green vegetables, red or orange vegetables, beans and legumes, starchy vegetables and other vegetables like mushrooms every single day in order to enhance your health and prevent disease. Instead, the USDA advises trying over the course of a week to consume a minimum amount from each vegetable category. When it comes to leafy vegetables, women should aim to get at least 1 1/2 cups weekly and men should try to get 2 cups. Children and adolescents should try to consume between 1 1/2 to 2 cups weekly.
It's important to eat enough raw, leafy green vegetables regularly, says the Colorado State University Extension, because they are dense with fiber, minerals such as calcium and vitamins like vitamin C, folate and vitamin A. They also contain a high concentration of antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds which may help lower your risk of heart disease, cancer and eye disorders like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. People with a high intake of vegetables like raw, leafy greens may also have a decreased risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Vegetables and Fruits - Get Plenty Every Day
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association: Most Americans Eat Much Less Than Recommended Amounts of Fruits and Vegetables
- Choosemyplate.gov: What Counts as a Cup of Vegetables?
- Cooking Light: Ask Our Dietitian - How Many Fruits and Vegetables Should I Eat a Day?
- Cooking Light: Best & Worst Veggies
- Choosemyplate.gov: How Many Vegetables are Needed Daily or Weekly?
- Colorado State University Extension: Health Benefits and Safe Handling of Salad Greens
- American Optometric Association: Lutein & Zeaxanthin
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Why Is It Important to Eat Vegetables?
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.