A woman smiling and peeling a carrot in her kitchen to eat more vegetables.

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Only 10% of Adults Eat Enough Veggies—These 7 Strategies Can Help

Spoiler alert: It’s more than just eating salads all the time.

By Ayren Jackson-CannadyMay 16, 2024


Do you find yourself wrinkling your nose at the sight of broccoli or picking the peppers off your plate? You’re not alone. Many people struggle to incorporate vegetables into their diet. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that only 10 percent of adults consume enough veggies each day, and just 12 percent get the recommended amount of fruit they need. However, skipping out on vegetables means missing out on essential nutrients crucial for your overall health and well-being. 

But don’t worry: There are plenty of simple ways—that are both expert-approved and taste-tested—to ensure you get the nutrients your body needs, even if you’re not a fan of leafy greens. Read on for tips from registered dietitians on how to eat more vegetables (and the compelling reasons why you should).

Why Vegetables Are a Crucial Part of Any Diet

Not only are vegetables packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, but they also provide a wide range of health benefits, from supporting digestion to reducing the risk of chronic diseases, says Ellen Landes, RDN, a registered dietitian and owner of The Runner’s Dietitian. “The fiber in veggies helps regulate digestion and helps you feel full, while antioxidants are important for the immune system, supporting recovery from hard workouts, and protecting the body against chronic inflammation.”

Plus, they’re delicious and versatile, says Roxana Ehsani, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist and board-certified sports dietitian. “You can eat them in all forms—fresh, frozen, or canned.”

Conversely, when you don’t eat enough vegetables, you’re at risk of a few notable side effects, such as:

  • Nutrient deficiencies: As Landes notes, vegetables are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants vital for overall health. If you always skip out on veggies, you may not get enough vitamin C, folate, and potassium (among other key nutrients), opening the door to potential deficiencies and health problems.

  • Digestive issues: Vegetables are high in fiber, which aids in digestion and helps maintain bowel regularity, fending off uncomfortable digestive issues like constipation.

  • Increased risk of chronic diseases: A diet lacking in veggies (and the antioxidants and phytochemicals they deliver) is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes.

How Many Servings of Vegetables Should You Aim for Every Day?

Experts generally recommend shooting for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. “The goal is three veggies and two fruits, but most people aren’t getting anywhere near this recommendation, so don’t let it overwhelm you,” Landes says. “If you aren’t currently eating vegetables daily, simply start by trying to have one serving per day and go from there.”

But what exactly constitutes a serving? Think of it as about a cup of raw leafy greens, half a cup of vegetable juice, or half a cup of fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Should That Number Change If You Live an Active Lifestyle?

If you exercise frequently, try to up your intake to at least five to nine servings of fruits and veggies each day. “Anyone who is exercising frequently is going to have higher nutrient needs than someone who is sedentary,” Landes explains. “Vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals that the body needs for energy production, muscle function, and recovery after workouts.”

How to Eat More Vegetables

Eating enough vegetables is important for your health—that’s not surprising. What may be surprising, however, are all the easy ways you can squeeze more produce into your daily diet. Here are a few dietitian-loved tips for eating more veggies every day:

1. Eat What You Love

“My number-one tip is to find veggies you actually like,” Landes says. “Kale might be a nutrient powerhouse, but if you’re not a fan, don’t force it.” 

However, do regularly try new vegetables to discover more of what you like, and then incorporate your new favorites into your meal rotation.

2. Smooth Them Out

Smoothies are one of the simplest ways to add more greens to your diet. Spinach or kale, for example, blend seamlessly into a fruit smoothie, adding folate, fiber, manganese, and vitamins A, K, and C to your diet—and “you won’t even taste them,” Ehsani says.

3. Add Cauliflower

“A lot of people swap rice for cauliflower rice to lower the carb content, but active individuals need to be consuming plenty of carbs to support their performance and recovery,” Landes says. “So instead of swapping, mix a serving of cauliflower rice in with your regular rice.” Combining fueling carbs and a serving of nutrient-rich veggies offers the best of both worlds, and you’ll hardly notice a difference.

4. Hit Up the Freezer Aisle 

While fresh vegetables might seem more nutrient-dense than their frozen counterparts, that’s not necessarily true. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that the vitamin content in eight frozen fruits and veggies was typically similar to (and sometimes even higher than) their fresh equivalents. “[Frozen veggies] are also incredibly convenient and cost-effective, especially if you find yourself throwing away fresh veggies that spoil before you get to them,” Landes says. 

5. Sneak Them In

If you’re not a fan of eating vegetables on their own, try incorporating them into other dishes where their flavor may be less noticeable, Ehsani suggests. For example, you can blend vegetables such as spinach, carrots, or cauliflower into soups for an added nutritional boost. Grated or finely chopped vegetables can also be mixed into meatballs, burgers, pasta sauces, or casseroles without significantly altering the taste.

6. Dress Them Up 

If your primary complaint against eating more vegetables is that they taste boring or bland, don’t be afraid to give them a makeover of sorts. “Adding dips or cooking with healthy fats like olive oil can give them some delicious flavor but also boost satiety and improve the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins found in vegetables,” Landes says. “Different herbs and spices can also make a huge difference in the flavors of your veggies, too.”

7. Turn Them Into a Snack

Another way to avoid veggie fatigue is to prepare them differently, Ehsani says. One thing to try: Make your own crispy vegetable chips by thinly slicing vegetables like kale, zucchini, sweet potatoes, or beets, tossing them in olive oil and seasoning, and baking them until crispy. These homemade chips are a healthier alternative to store-bought potato chips and are packed with nutrients.

The Takeaway

Veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and antioxidants we need, but eating enough of them can be easier said than done. With these creative ways to eat more vegetables, you can easily up your produce game and reap the delicious rewards, from immune system support to better recovery from hard workouts. If you want to eat more vegetables every day, experiment with new foods and focus on finding nutritious alternatives and preparation styles that you enjoy, from adding vegetables to smoothies to sneaking them in to soups, sauces, or snacks. Your body will thank you for it in the long run.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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