Vegetables & Fruits

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Before you eat, think about what and how much food goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl. 

Over the day, include a variety of foods from all 5 food groups using MyPlate as your guide to assure you get the nutrients you need:

MyPlate Food Guide:
Vegetables Fruits Grains Dairy Protein Foods
Eat more red, orange, and dark-green veggies like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli in main dishes. Use fruits as snacks, salads, and desserts. At breakfast, top your cereal with bananas or strawberries; add blueberries to pancakes. Substitute whole-grain choices for refined-grain breads, bagels, rolls, breakfast cereals, crackers, rice, and pasta. Choose skim (fat-free) or 1% (low-fat) milk. They have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories. Eat a variety of foods from the protein food group each week, such as seafood, beans, peas and nuts as well as lean meats, poultry, and eggs.
Add beans or peas to salads (kidney or chickpeas), soups (split peas or lentils), and side dishes (pinto or baked beans), or serve as a main dish. Buy fruits that are dried, frozen, and canned (in water or 100% juice), as well as fresh fruits. Check the ingredients list on product labels for the words “whole” or “whole grain” before the grain ingredient name. Top fruit salads and baked potatoes with low-fat, plain yogurt. Twice a week, make seafood the protein on your plate.
Fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables all count. Choose “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” canned veggies. Select 100% fruit juice. Choose products that name a whole grain first on the ingredients list. If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or fortified soymilk. Choose lean meats and ground beef that are at least 90% lean.
Trim or drain fat from meat and remove skin from poultry to cut fat and calories.
For a adult 2,000-calorie daily food plan, you need the amounts below from each food group. To find amounts personalized for you, go to
Eat 2 ½ cups every day Eat 2 cups every day Eat 6 ounces every day Eat 3 cups every day Eat 5 ½ ounces every day
What counts as a cup? What counts as a cup? What counts as a ounce? What counts as a cup? What counts as a ounce?
1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 100% vegetable juice; 2 cups of leafy salad greens 1 cup of raw or cooked fruit or 100% fruit juice; ½ cup dried fruit 1 slice of bread; ½ cup of cooked rice, cereal, or pasta; 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal 1 cup of milk, yogurt, or fortified soymilk; 1½ ounces natural or 2 ounces processed cheese 1 ounce of lean meat, poultry, or fish; 1 egg; 1 Tbsp peanut butter; ½ ounce nuts or seeds; ¼ cup beans or peas
  • Vegetables & Fruits: Make half your plate vegetables and fruits
  • Grains: Make half your plate grains whole grains
  • Dairy: Move to low fat or fat free milk and yogurt
  • Protein: Vary your meats and use dry beans, nuts, or fish

Why should I eat more vegetables & fruits?

Vegetables and fruits are high in essential vitamins and minerals, and most are low in calories.

  • Can help you maintain a healthy weight
  • High in fiber which helps prevent constipation and can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • May prevent certain cancers and reduce your risk of getting some chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease
  • Taste great and add color, flavor and texture!

Focus on whole fruits—fresh, canned, frozen, or dried—instead of juice. The sugar naturally found in fruit does not count as added sugar.

How can I get my kids to eat more of their vegetables?

Get creative

  • Serve washed raw veggies with dip. Try yogurt, salad dressings, peanut butter, or other dips. Kids seem to like raw vegetables since they are finger foods and texture and color are usually better.
  • Add them to eggs, sandwiches, pizza, stir fry and rice.
  • Cut up in small pieces or puree and hide them in casseroles, spaghetti sauce and meat loaf.
  • Stuff them with cottage cheese, tuna, meat or egg salad.

Make veggies fun

  • Let kids make art using vegetables: broccoli florets for trees, carrots and celery for flowers, cauliflower for clouds, and yellow squash for a sun! They can eat their masterpiece!
  • Let children go shopping with you and pick out a new vegetable to try.
  • Serve brightly colored vegetables.
  • If you have a garden, let your child pick the vegetables for the meal. Be clear about what to pick and how much is needed. 
  • Let your preschooler make a salad. They can wash lettuce and tomatoes and tear lettuce into the bowl. 
  • Make homemade pizza and let the kids add veggie toppings like onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

10 Tips to Add More Veggies to Your Day

  1. Discover fast ways to cook: Cook fresh or frozen vegetables in the microwave for a quick-and-easy dish to add to any meal. Steam green beans, carrots, or cabbage in a bowl with a small amount of water in the microwave for a quick side dish.
  2. Be ahead of the game: Cut up a batch of bell peppers, cauliflower, or broccoli. Pre-package them to use when time is limited. Enjoy them in a casserole, stir-fry, or as a snack with hummus (dip made from chick peas or other vegetables).
  3. Choose vegetables rich in color: Brighten your plate with vegetables that are red, orange, or dark green. They are full of vitamins and minerals. Try acorn squash, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, or spinach. They not only taste great but are good for you, too.
  4. Check the freezer aisle: Frozen vegetables are quick and easy to use and are just as nutritious as fresh veggies. Try adding frozen vegetables, such as corn, peas, or spinach, to your favorite dish. Look for frozen vegetables without added sauces, gravies, butter, or cream.
  5. Stock up on veggies: Canned vegetables are a great addition to any meal, so keep on hand canned tomatoes, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, mushrooms, and beets. Select those labeled as “reduced sodium,” “low sodium,” or “no salt added.” 
  6. Make your garden salad glow with color: Brighten your salad by using colorful vegetables such as black beans or avocados, sliced red bell peppers or onions, shredded radishes or carrots, and chopped red cabbage or watercress. Your salad will not only look good but taste good, too.
  7. Sip on some vegetable soup: Heat it and eat it. Try tomato, butternut squash, or garden vegetable soup. Look for reduced- or low-sodium soups. Make your own soups with a low-sodium broth and your favorite vegetables.
  8. While you’re out: If dinner is away from home, no need to worry. When ordering, ask for an extra side of vegetables or a side salad instead of the typical fried side dish. Ask for toppings and dressings on the side.
  9. Savor the flavor of seasonal vegetables: Buy vegetables that are in season for maximum flavor at a lower cost. Check your local supermarket specials for the best in-season buys. Or visit your local farmers market.

    (July – August)


    (September – November)


    (December – April)


    (May – June)

    Vegetables: Vegetables: Vegetables: Vegetables:
    Brussels Sprouts
    Sweet Bell Peppers
    Summer Squash
    Sweet corn
    Squash (Winter)
    Sweet Potatoes
    Brussels Sprouts
    Fruit: Fruit: Fruit: Fruit:
  10. Vary your veggies: Choose a new vegetable that you’ve never tried before. Find recipes online at

Discover even more ways to add vegetables and fruits to your meals with these 10 Tips to Liven Up Your Meals with Vegetables and Fruits.

10 Tips to Focus on Fruits

  1. Keep visible reminders: Keep a bowl of washed whole fruit on the table, counter, or in the refrigerator
  2. Experiment with flavor: Use fruits to sweeten a recipe instead of adding sugar. Buy fresh fruits in season when they may be less expensive and at their peak flavor. See the Produce Seasonal Chart below.
  3. Think about variety: Buy fruits that are dried, frozen, and canned (in water or 100% juice) as well as fresh, so that you always have a supply on hand.
  4. Don’t forget the fiber: Make the most of your choices whole or cut-up fruit, rather than juice, for the benefits that dietary fiber provides.
  5. Include fruit at breakfast: Top your yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, toast, or pancakes with bananas, peaches, blueberries or strawberries
  6. Try fruit at lunch: Pack a tangerine, banana, or grape to eat or choose fruits from a salad bar. Individual containers of fruits like peaches or unsweetened applesauce are easy to carry and convenient for lunch.
  7. Enjoy fruit at dinner, too: Add crushed pineapple to coleslaw or include orange sections, dried cranberries, or grapes in a tossed salad. Eat fruit for dessert.
  8. Snack on fruits: Fruits make great snacks. Try dried fruits mixed with nuts or whole fruits like apples or grapes. They are easy to carry and store well.
  9. Be a good role model: Set a good example for children by eating fruit every day with meals or as snacks.
  10. Keep fruits safe: Rinse fruits before preparing or eating them. Under clean, running water, rub fruits briskly to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. After rinsing, dry with a clean towel.

Discover even more ways to add vegetables and fruits to your meals with these 10 Tips to Liven Up Your Meals with Vegetables and Fruits.

Are beans and peas a vegetable?

Beans and peas (such as kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas and lentils) are unique and can be considered part of the Vegetable and Protein Food Groups!

  • Vegetable Group because they are an excellent source of dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate and potassium. 
  • Protein Group because they also provide protein, iron, and zinc similar to meats, poultry, and fish. See the below Protein section for more information on beans and peas.

Are potatoes bad for me?

Answer: No! Potatoes are good for you and contain a lot of important nutrients.

  • 40% of the daily value for vitamin C 
  • 600 mg potassium, comparable to bananas and spinach 
  • 6% iron 
  • 110 calories  
  • No fat or cholesterol
  • 2 grams of healthy fiber

The key to keeping potatoes healthy is how they are prepared or cooked. Deep-fat fried French fries, for example, are not a healthy way to prepare potatoes.

Try these healthy ways to prepare washed potatoes:

  • Bake: Slice potatoes into wedges, toss lightly with oil, coat with Salt-Free Spice Blend and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes on each side for a healthy French Fry version.
  • Broil: Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch slices, toss lightly with oil, coat with Salt-Free Spice Blend, microwave for 60 seconds on each side, then place under broiler for 5 minutes on each side. 
  • Steam: Bring water to boil, add potatoes with skin in steamer basket, potatoes should not touch water. Cover for 20 minutes. Let cool, then use the potatoes to make healthy potato salad. 
  • Microwave: Prick, microwave, then let rest for a few minutes. Cut the potato open and garnish it with low fat yogurt, and diced vegetables. 
  • Grill: Toss with olive oil, add spices and wrap tightly in foil. Put the package on the grate directly over the heat, cover the grill, and in 40 minutes you have a delicious side dish.

This post was last updated on April 29th, 2021 at 11:23 AM

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