MyPlate: Vegetable Group
This publication describes ways to incorporate healthful vegetables into the diet.
Donnia Behrends, Extension Educator
Jamie Goffena, Extension Educator
- Why Eat Vegetables?
- Vegetable Diet Recommendations
- Color Your Plate with Vegetables
- Tips to Eat More Vegetables
- Including Vegetables on a Tight Budget
Vegetables bring color, texture and flavor to meals. More importantly, vegetables provide folate, vitamins A and C, minerals such as potassium, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and many phytochemicals. Vegetables generally are low in calories.
Americans typically eat only 59 percent of the recommended amounts of vegetables, affecting their overall health. Eating the recommended amounts of nutrient-rich vegetables has positive health benefits. Research has shown that people who eat generous amounts of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthful eating pattern have reduced risk of certain health problems. Some of the health benefits gained by eating a diet rich in a variety of vegetables include:
- reduced risk for stroke, coronary heart disease, and other cardiovascular diseases
- reduced markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in adults
- reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
- protection from certain types of cancer
- reduced risk of developing kidney stones
- increased protection from bone loss
- help with weight management
With MyPlate, any vegetable or vegetable juice is part of the Vegetable Food Group. Vegetables are the edible part of plants and can be raw, cooked, canned, frozen, or dried. One cup of raw, cooked or juiced vegetable; or two cups of raw leafy green vegetables count as one cup from the Vegetable Food Group. For a healthy eating pattern, while staying within an individual’s calorie needs, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends increasing vegetable intake and eating a variety of vegetables, especially dark green, red and orange vegetables, and beans and peas. Most people should aim to eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables each day. However, the exact amount of food from the vegetable group that you need to eat depends on your gender, age, and how physically activity you are. From www.Choosemyplate.gov find the daily calories and cups of vegetables that are recommended for you. See Table I for general guidelines.
|Table I. Daily Recommendations*|
|Children||2-3 years old
4-8 years old
|Girls||9-13 years old
14-18 years old
|Boys||9-13 years old
14-18 years old
|Women||19 -30 years old
31- 50 years old
50+ years old
|Men||19 -30 years old
31- 50 years old
50+ years old
|*These amounts are appropriate for individuals who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, beyond normal daily activities. Those who are more physically active may be able to consume more while staying within calorie needs.|
For the most healthful diet, regularly eat dark green, red, and orange vegetables, and dry beans (legumes). This colorful variety of vegetables will help provide the full range of vitamins, fiber, and minerals that your body needs. Vegetables are organized into five subgroups based on their nutrient content. Table II provides information about the different subgroups of vegetables and the recommended weekly amounts of each group to fit into a 2,000 calorie diet. Vegetables are popular with people who watch their weight because they are low in calories and fat, and high in fiber. However, some ways of preparing vegetables may add extra fat. For example, fried or buttered vegetables have many more calories and fat than steamed vegetables. Cheeses, cream sauces, and salad dressings also add extra fat. Keep calories low by limiting added fat, and by eating fresh, roasted, grilled, or steamed vegetables.
|Table II. Vegetable Subgroup and recommended weekly amount|
|Vegetables in Subgroup||Nutrition benefit|
|Dark Green Vegetables
1½ cups per week
|Bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, dark green leafy lettuce, kale, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, turnip greens, watercress||Dark green vegetables are rich in calcium needed for healthy bones and teeth.|
5½ cups per week
|Acorn squash, butternut squash, carrots, hubbard squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, red peppers, tomatoes||Foods high in beta-carotene, which is turned into vitamin A in the body, help protect against infection and some cancers.|
|Dry Peas and Beans (Legumes)
1½ cups per week
|Black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, soy beans, split peas, tofu, white beans||Iron, found in legumes, is needed by the body to build blood.|
5 cups per week
|Green peas, corn, potatoes, taro root, water chestnuts||Vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.|
4 cups per week
|Green beans, artichokes, asparagus, bean sprouts, beets, onions, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, okra, parsnips, celery, turnips, cucumbers, eggplant, green or yellow peppers, iceberg lettuce, mushrooms, summer squash, vegetable juice, zucchini||All vegetables are sources of fiber which aids digestion, lowers cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar, and protects from colon cancer.|
- To prevent throwing out spoiled food, shop smart by selecting fresh vegetables for the first four days of the week and selecting canned or frozen vegetables for the remainder of the week. Vegetables in season are fresher and often more affordable.
- Vegetables with the least processing are usually more affordable too. For example, fresh whole carrots cost about one-third that of cleaned baby carrots.
- If children help select vegetables at the grocery store or help prepare vegetables, they are more likely to eat them. Also, allow children to choose the kinds of vegetables they eat by offering two to three choices for meals and snacks.
- A very economical choice is dry beans or legumes, costing about 10 cents per half-cup serving. Although dry beans require a long cooking time, they need not take much time to prepare. Cook beans in a pressure cooker, following the directions provided, or use a crock pot. For the crock pot, cover 1 cup beans with 2½ cups of water and cook overnight on low setting. In the morning, drain off liquid and add seasonings and the remainder of recipe ingredients with enough liquid to cover the beans. Cook on low until lunch or dinner time.
The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Linda Boeckner and Karen Schledewitz, authors of the original edition of this publication.
United States Department of Health and Human Services and United States Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, 7th edition, Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January 2010.
United States Department of Agriculture. MyPlate – Vegetable Food Group. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables.html. Accessed April 20, 2012.
Boeckner, Linda and Schledewitz, Karen. MyPyramid – Vegetable Group, NebGuide 1605, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension.
Holt, EM, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and its relation to markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in adolescents. Journal of American Dietetics Association, 2009 Mar:109(3):414-21.
This publication has been peer reviewed.
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Index: Foods & Nutrition
2005, Revised June 2012