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Publication #FCS8915

Healthy Veggie Choices for MyPlate1

Claudia Peñuela2

The vegetable group includes vegetables and 100% vegetable juices. Vegetables can be served raw or cooked. They are available fresh, frozen, canned or dried. They can be eaten whole, cut-up, or mashed. MyPlate's message is "Vary your veggies" because different vegetables provide a variety of nutrients such as fiber, vitamins (A, C, E, and folate), and minerals (potassium). Vegetables are naturally low in calories and fat, and are free of cholesterol. Depending on their nutrient content, vegetables are divided into five subgroups: dark green, orange, dry beans and peas, starchy, and other. MyPlate recommends eating more dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, and dry beans and peas in particular.

Recommended Vegetable Intakes

MyPlate recommends eating between 1 and 4 cups of vegetables every day depending on age, sex, and level of physical activity.

Go to http://myplate.gov to create your personal plan.

Table 1 shows the recommended cups of vegetables per day for a person who gets less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity. Those who are more physically active are able to consume more while staying within calorie needs.

Table 1. 
 

Age Years

Cup(s)

Children

2-3

1

4-8

1 ½

Girls

9-13

2

14-18

2 ½

Boys

9-13

2 ½

14-18

3

Women

19-30

2 ½

31-50

2 ½

51+

2

Men

19-30

3

31-50

3

51+

2 ½

What does "one cup" from the Vegetable Group mean?

1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables
2 cups of raw leafy greens
1 cup cooked dry beans or peas
1 cup of 100% vegetable juice
12 baby carrots

Try Veggie Subgroups

Dark green: bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, dark green leafy lettuce, kale, mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens, and watercress.

Orange: acorn squash, butternut squash, carrots, hubbard squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.

Legumes: black, kidney, navy, pinto, white beans; lima beans (mature), soy beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyes peas, split peas, and lentils.

Starchy: corn, greens peas, lima beans (green), and potatoes.

Other: artichokes, asparagus, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, green/red peppers, iceberg lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, tomatoes, tomato juice, vegetable juice, wax beans, and zucchini.

Nutrients and Key Points about their Benefits

Fiber reduces the risk of heart disease and promotes regular bowel movement. Some examples of high fiber vegetables are all kinds of beans, peas, lentils, artichokes, turnip greens, baked potatoes with the skin.

Potassium helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure and it is needed for muscle and nerve functions. Some examples of vegetables with high potassium are sweet potatoes, tomato products, beet greens, white beans, winter squash, white potatoes, lima beans, carrot juice, and spinach.

Vitamin A aids in normal vision, keeps skin healthy, and helps to protect against infections. Some examples are sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, turnip greens, mustard green, collard green, kale, winter squash, red peppers, and cabbage.

Vitamin C helps to cure cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy. Some examples are red and green pepper, brussels sprouts, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and kale.

Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant. Some examples are tomato, carrot, and spinach.

Folate produces red blood cells and reduces a woman's risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord defect. Some examples are spinach, asparagus, and lentils.

Tips for Buying and Eating More Veggies

  • Buy fresh veggies when they are in season. This is when they are the cheapest.

  • Buy vegetables that are easy to prepare such as pre-washed bags of salad and frozen vegetables.

  • Include dark-green or orange vegetables in casseroles, soups, stews, stir fry, and in breads, etc.

  • Use cooked legumes in salads, side dishes, and main dishes.

  • Try to use more fresh or frozen vegetables, because canned vegetables are usually high in sodium.

  • Eat less starchy vegetables. Choose veggies from a variety of subgroups.

  • Choose sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes because they offer more nutrients. Eat smaller portions of white potatoes.

  • Eat salads with dark leafy greens such as romaine lettuce and spinach frequently, and color them with carrot, red pepper, and some fruits such as mandarin, oranges, or strawberries.

  • Keep cut raw vegetables on hand for snacks.

Cooking Vegetables

It is important to cook vegetables fast and in a small amount of liquid to help preserve the nutrients. Cook just until vegetables are tender.

  • Steam vegetables using a steamer basket in a saucepan or in a microwave.

  • Broiled or grill vegetables.

  • Cake vegetables on a baking sheet in the oven.

  • Stir fry vegetables by heating the fry-pan coated with a light coat of oil. Add the veggies and use soy sauce, lemon juice, or herbs for flavor.

References

United States Department of Agriculture, MyPlate.gov. MyPlate Basics [Online]. http://www.myplate.gov/

United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and promotion. Dietary Guidelines for Americans [Online]. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Cancer Institute. USA.gov's Fruits and Veggies Matter [Online]. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/

Footnotes

1.

This document is FCS8915, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date August 5, 2010. Reviewed with minor revision August 2011. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Claudia Peñuela, EFNEP assistant in nutrition; Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; University of Florida; Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.