By Krisha McCoy, MS
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
Only 30 percent of people 65 and older eat five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables – the minimum amount recommended for good nutrition. While more seniors than younger people meet this suggested allotment, the numbers still fall short.
But eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is especially important as you get older, because the nutrients and fiber in these foods can help reduce high blood pressure, lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, stave off eye and digestive problems — and simply satisfy your hunger.
How Big Is a Fruit or Vegetable Serving?
Nutrition experts used to recommend five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. But that’s probably no longer enough, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Individual needs are different, and depending on age, gender, and level of physical activity, you’ll require between 5 and 13 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Before you try to eat an entire bunch of bananas or a bushel of apples, remember that one serving equals ½ cup, or about the amount you could hold in a cupped hand.
To help determine your specific needs, visit the CDC’s fruit and vegetable calculator.
Getting the Fruits and Vegetables You Need
Why We Eat Less as We Age
As you get older, certain age-related changes can make it more difficult to get the fruits and vegetables you need, including:
- Difficulty chewing. Some people have dental problems that make it harder to chew.
- Changes in taste. Certain people find that food doesn't taste the same as they get older.
- Mobility problems. For older people who are no longer able to drive, it may be difficult to get out and shop for fruits and vegetables.
- Lack of motivation to cook. If you live alone, you may not feel like cooking just for one.
- Changes in appetite. For many people, getting older means that you just aren't as hungry as you used to be.
Follow these tips for increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat each day:
- Display your produce. Put your fruits and vegetables out on the counter or in a prominent position in the refrigerator, so that you'll be more likely to eat them.
- Add fruit and vegetables to every meal. Make it a point to fill half your plate at breakfast, lunch, and dinner with fruits or vegetables.
- Try new produce. Each time you go to the grocery store, pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try.
- Cook vegetarian. At least once every week, skip the meat and try a new vegetarian recipe for dinner.
- Snack on produce. Try snacking on fresh or dried fruit, carrot and bell pepper strips with a low-fat dip, or baked chips with salsa.
- Add fruits and vegetables to dishes. Find ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into foods you already eat. For instance, stir fruit into your cereal or yogurt, add strawberries or blueberries to your pancakes, pack your sandwich with extra veggies, add vegetable toppings to your pizza, stir greens into your favorite casserole or pasta dish, or stuff your omelet with extra vegetables.