This information has been reviewed and adapted for use in South Carolina by J. G. Hunter, HGIC Information Specialist, and K. L. Cason, Professor, State EFNEP Coordinator, Clemson University. (New 09/05.)
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommends eating 2½ cups of vegetables every day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. You may need to eat more or less, depending on your calorie level. This may seem like a tremendous amount to eat; however, vegetables are very nutritious. They are rich in fiber and nutrients while being low in fats, sugars, and total calories. In addition, vegetables are cholesterol-free.
Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce your risk for:
Vegetables Contain Several Nutrients:
Vitamin A—keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps to protect against infections.
Vitamin C—helps heal cuts and wounds, keeps teeth and gums healthy, and aids in iron absorption.
Vitamin E—helps protect vitamin A and essential fatty acids from cell oxidation.
Potassium—may help to maintain healthy blood pressure.
Folate (folic acid)—helps to form red blood cells, and is important during pregnancy to reduce a woman’s risk of having a baby with a spinal cord or brain defect.
Dietary fiber—helps reduce blood cholesterol levels, may lower risk of heart disease, helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis, and helps provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
Phytochemicals—help protect against diseases, serve as antioxidants, detoxifiers, immune boosters and anti-inflammatories. Inflammation plays a major role in heart attacks, some cancers, allergies, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases.
Vegetable Sources of Each Nutrient:
Vitamin A—bright orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin; tomatoes and tomato products; red sweet pepper; leafy greens such as spinach, collards, turnip greens, kale, beet and mustard greens, green leaf lettuce, and romaine.
Vitamin C—broccoli; peppers; tomatoes; cabbage (especially Chinese cabbage); Brussels sprouts; potatoes; leafy greens such as romaine, turnip greens, and spinach.
Vitamin E—turnip greens; spinach; tomato (sauce, puree); carrot juice; dandelion greens.
Potassium—baked white or sweet potatoes; cooked greens (such as spinach); winter (orange) squash; cooked dry beans; soybeans (green and mature); tomato products (sauce, paste, puree); beet greens.
Folate—cooked dry beans and peas; deep green leaves, like spinach and mustard greens.
Dietary Fiber—all vegetables.
Phytochemicals—two common ones are lycopene in tomatoes and sulforaphane in broccoli.
Vegetables are represented by the green band on MyPyramid, USDA’s latest food guide, which shows that foods from all groups are needed daily for good health. This group includes vegetables of all types—raw, cooked, fresh, frozen, canned and dried/dehydrated. They can be consumed whole, cut-up, mashed, or as 100% vegetable juice.
To keep meals and snacks interesting, vary your veggie choices. Favor the dark or vividly colored vegetables, especially the deep green and orange ones, but continue to eat and enjoy the lighter colored vegetables to add variety to your diet.
Deeply colored vegetables and fruits contain the most vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This includes all dark green, deep red, purple, and bright orange or yellow plant foods. Eat more dark-green veggies like broccoli, spinach, and other dark leafy greens. Include more orange vegetables, like carrots and sweet potatoes in your diet, as well as legumes (dry beans and peas).
Choose a Variety of Vegetables Every Day From the Five Subgroups:
Dark Green: bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, dark green leafy lettuce, kale, mesclun (a mixture of young tender greens such as lettuces, arugula, and chicory), mustard greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, turnip greens, and watercress.
Orange Vegetables: acorn squash, butternut squash, carrots, hubbard squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.
Dry Beans and Peas: black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, lentils, lima beans (mature), navy beans, pinto beans, soy beans, split peas, tofu (bean curd made from soybeans), and white beans.
Starchy Vegetables: corn, green peas, lima beans (green), and potatoes.
Other: artichokes, asparagus, bean sprouts, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, green or red peppers, iceberg (head) lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, parsnips, tomatoes, tomato juice, vegetable juice, turnips, wax beans, and zucchini.
1 cup = 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables = 1 cup of vegetable juice = 2 cups raw leafy greens
For example, 1 cup of cooked spinach counts as 1 cup of vegetables, while 2 cups of raw spinach is equivalent to 1 cup of vegetables.
Other Amounts that Count as 1 Cup:
Broccoli: 3 spears 5" long raw or cooked
Carrots: 2 medium or about 12 baby carrots
Sweet potato: 1 large baked (2¼"+ diameter)
Tofu: 1 cup ½" cubes (about 8 oz.)
Corn: 1 large ear (8" to 9" long)
White potatoes: 1 medium boiled or baked (2½"-3" diameter); French fried*: 20 strips (2½" to 4" long)
(*Contains discretionary calories.)
Celery: 2 large stalks (11" to 12" long)
Green or red peppers: 1 large pepper (3" diameter, 3¾" long)
Tomatoes: 1 large raw whole (3")
For additional 1-cup equivalents, visit www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/vegetables_counts.html
Most people should eat about 2½ cups of vegetables per day. The exact amount you need depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. The following amounts are appropriate for people who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, beyond normal daily activities. If you are more physically active, you may be able to eat more while staying within your calorie needs.
|Children||2-3 years old||1 cup|
|4-8 years old||1½ cups|
|Girls||9-13 years old||2 cups|
|14-18 years old||2½ cups|
|Boys||9-13 years old||2½ cups|
|14-18 years old||3 cups|
|Women||19-50 years old||2½ cups|
|51+ years old||2 cups|
|Men||19-50 years old||3 cups|
|51+ years old||2½ cups|
Vegetable subgroups are organized according to their nutrient content. It is not necessary to eat vegetables from every subgroup daily. However, the following chart lists specific amounts from each subgroup that should be consumed over a week in order to reach your daily intake recommendation. Try to eat the amounts shown on a weekly basis.
|Dark Greens||Orange||Dry Beans & Peas||Starchy||Other|
|Children||2-3 years olds||1 cup||½ cup||½ cup||1½ cups||4 cups|
|4-8 years old||1½ cups||1 cup||1 cup||2½ cups||4½ cups|
|Girls||9-13 years old||2 cups||1½ cups||2½ cups||2½ cups||5½ cups|
|14-18 years old||3 cups||2 cups||3 cups||3 cups||6½ cups|
|Boys||9-13 years old||3 cups||2 cups||3 cups||3 cups||6½ cups|
|14-18 years old||3 cups||2 cups||3 cups||6 cups||7 cups|
|Women||19-50 years old||3 cups||2 cups||3 cups||3 cups||6½ cups|
|51 + years old||2 cups||1½ cups||2½ cups||2½ cups||5½ cups|
|Men||19-50 years old||3 cups||2 cups||3 cups||6 cups||7 cups|
|51 + years old||3 cups||2 cups||3 cups||3 cups||6½ cups|
It can be difficult to get kids to eat a variety of vegetables. Never force them to eat veggies, but continue to offer a variety every day.
Place non-starchy vegetables of choice on a baking sheet and lightly toss with a small amount of olive or canola oil. Season with pepper, garlic, a little salt and Italian seasoning. Bake at 425 °F for 15 to 20 minutes or longer. Serve with balsamic vinegar.
If you want to lose weight, eat more vegetables and fruits. Focus on non-starchy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce.
Limit the amounts of starchy vegetables to what is recommended each week.
When buying canned vegetables, no salt-added is the best choice.
To retain as much nutritional value as possible, serve vegetables raw frequently. Steam, bake or microwave vegetables for the shortest time possible. Use as little water as possible when boiling to reduce exposure to water and heat.
Dietary fiber only comes from plant foods. Set a goal to get 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you consume.
Dry bean and peas (legumes) are the best sources of fiber and should be eaten at least twice a week. They are part of the vegetable and the meat groups.
Add fiber to your diet gradually over a period of several months. This allows time for the digestive tract to adjust, minimizing gas, bloating, diarrhea and cramps.
Plan ahead. Buy a variety of nutrient-rich foods for meals and snacks throughout the week. Take this basic vegetable shopping list with you every time you go to the grocery store:
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