What Does Five Serves of Vegetables Look Like?

Kathryn Elliot

In my clinic, I often see clients who tell me their diet is 'pretty healthy'. While they don't eat a lot of junk or processed foods, they keep saturated fats to a minimum and cook with olive oil, their vegetable intake is often low to non-existent.

5 serves in pictures
What exactly does a cup of spinach or half a cup of carrots look like when you're at the supermarket buying food for dinner?

The photographs below show different examples of the five servings of vegies and how you could them together during a day. The cup and half-cup measures at the back of the photos give you an idea of proportions.

If you ate one of these plates a day, you'd be getting the full five serves, which is the minimum level recommended by the Federal Governments National Health & Medical Research Council

1. Lettuce, pumpkin, tomato, zucchini, potato
5 lettuce leaves
5 chunks of pumpkin (about a 2cm wedge)
1 medium tomato
1 zucchini
1 medium potato

Ideas:

  • lettuce and tomato on a sandwich at lunch and then cook zucchini fritters with baked potato & pumpkin for dinner
  • lettuce, tomato and grated zucchini in a salad at lunch and mashed potato & pumpkin with meat in the evening
  • baked potato for lunch and then risotto with pumpkin, zucchini and tomato and a green salad in the evening

Chickpea and zucchini fritters with tzatziki from Better Homes & Gardens


2. Tomato pasta sauce, spinach, carrot, mushrooms
1 cup of tomato pasta sauce (2 serves)
1 large handful baby spinach
1 medium carrot
about 6 button mushrooms

Ideas:

  • mushrooms and spinach on toast for breakfast, grated carrot in your sandwich at lunch and pasta with sauce in the evening
  • snack on carrot sticks with hummous or cottage cheese during the day and have pasta with tomato sauce, baby spinach and thinly sliced mushrooms stirred through in the evening
  • mushrooms on toast for breakfast, baby spinach in sandwich at lunch, pasta with sauce and grated carrot stirred through in evening.


3. Bok choy, broccoli, dried shiitake mushrooms, carrot, cherry tomatoes
1 head of bok choy
3 - 4 broccoli florets
10 small dried shiitake mushrooms
1 medium carrot
1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes

Ideas:

  • snack on cherry tomatoes during the day, then use the rest in a stir fry for dinner
  • dip raw broccoli, carrot sticks and tomato wedges in hummous and have with Ryvita for lunch
  • Stir fry the shiitakes and bok choy with tofu/meat/chicken and serve with rice for dinner


4. Potato, corn, carrot, cucumber, tomato
1 corn cob
1 medium potato
1 medium carrot
about 15cm length of cucumber
1 medium tomato

Ideas:

  • cucumber and tomato on a sandwich at lunchtime and meat with baked potato, boiled corn and carrots in the evening
  • salad with tomato, cucumber and carrot at lunch then a barbecue in the evening with potato salad and barbecued corn
  • cook the potato in the microwave for lunch and serve with chopped up tomato, cucumber and cheese, or tinned fish at lunch-time, then have the corn and carrot with dinner


5. Green beans, tomato, carrot, asparagus, bok choy
8 green beans
1 medium tomato
1 medium carrot
7 thin (4 thick) stems of asparagus (about 2/3 bunch)
1 head of bok choy

Ideas:

  • tomato with avocado on toast in the morning and a stir fry in the evening with the rest
  • tomato and carrot on a sandwich at lunch and use the rest to make a quick tofu & sesame salad
  • poached eggs with asparagus and green beans for lunch and then stir fry in the evening with carrot, bok choy and chopped tomato stirred through
  • tomato and carrot on a sandwich at lunch and then a side dish of mixed seasonal greens with the rest in the evening


6. Tomato, spinach, mushroom, carrot, pumpkin
1 medium tomato
1 good handful of baby spinach
6 button mushrooms
1 medium carrot
5 chunks of pumpkin (about 2cm wedge)

Ideas:

  • mushrooms, spinach and tomato with poached eggs on toast for breakfast, then roasted carrot and pumpkin with dinner
  • toss the carrot, pumpkin, wedges of tomato and whole mushrooms in rosemary and olive oil then roast in the oven. Mix through the baby spinach and serve topped with feta or grilled lamb
  • tomato, mushroom and grated carrot in a salad at lunch and then pumpkin, spinach and cinnamon risotto in the evening


7. Mixed beans, lettuce, tomato, tinned beetroot, carrot
half a 400g tin of beans (pictured is a 4 bean mix)
5 lettuce leaves
1 medium tomato
3 baby beetroots (tinned)
1 medium carrot

Ideas:

  • this plate represents my lunch yesterday - I had all of this, plus some fresh mint leaves, a dressing of lemon juice and olive oil and a couple of Vita-weats
  • tomato, lettuce and beetroot in a sandwich or burger at lunch and then throw the beans and carrots in a stew, stir fry or risotto in the evening
  • mash the beans up with some lemon juice, yoghurt and garlic to make a dip and serve this with carrot sticks and have the rest as a salad with your dinner.


NB: Remember these amounts are a guide only. Of course, there will be some variation depending on exactly how big your 'medium' carrot really is. However, if you follow this guide you will be very close to the standard five measures and you'll be doing your health a major favour.

Kathryn Elliott is a Sydney nutritionist and herbalist who practices in a private clinic in Gladesville, NSW. She is a regular contributor to magazines and writes about diet, health and how to eat well in a busy life on her blog Limes & Lycopene