MyPlate: Varying Our Vegetables

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Eating healthy and making healthy changes in our diets can be influenced by so many things around us. MyPlate is a tool that helps create a healthier eating style by giving a colorful visual of the five different food groups. MyPlate also serves as a reminder to incorporate the five food groups into each of our meals1.

You may have learned the five food groups previously: vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy. The main focus of this article will be vegetables and how we can vary the vegetables we are eating each day. It is important for us to eat vegetables every day because they contain vitamins and minerals that are vital for the health and maintenance of our bodies2. Eating more fruits and vegetables has also been linked to lower rates of chronic conditions and disease including diabetes and cancer3.

Children, ages 5-12, should be eating 1½ to 2½ cups of vegetables each day1. Teens and adults, ages 13 and up, should be consuming 2 ½ to 3 cups per day1. To meet the recommended daily amount, veggies can be eaten raw, cooked, as a snack, or part of a meal. For more information on vegetables visit the MyPlate website, NC State’s Steps to Health website, or the USDA’s nutrition.gov.

Tips for Eating More Vegetables Each Day:

  • Add corn, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, or beans to soups and stews.
  • Add peppers, onions, carrots, or other vegetables to spaghetti sauce.
  • Keep canned veggies on hand. Rinse well or purchase “no salt added” or “low sodium items.”
  • Top sandwiches with dark-leaf lettuce, tomato, or other vegetables.
  • Keep frozen vegetables on hand. They are a quick and easy way to use and are just as nutritious as fresh veggies.
  • For more budget-friendly vegetables, shop at local farmers’ markets to see what is in season or check for specials at the local grocery store.

Recipe to Try: Zesty Asian Chicken Salad

Makes 4 servings.
1 cup per serving.
Prep time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chilled
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1½ cups small broccoli florets
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
    • 2 cups shredded cabbage
    • 1/2 cup fat-free Asian or sesame seed salad dressing
    • 1/4 cup 100% orange juice
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Cut chicken breasts into small strips. Place in a medium bowl with onions, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, and cabbage.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together dressing and juice. Pour over salad and toss well to coat.
  3. Stir in cilantro. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 184, Carbohydrate 13 g, Dietary Fiber 4 g, Protein 22 g, Total Fat 5 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Trans Fat 0 g, Cholesterol 55 mg, Sodium 456 mg

Adapted from: Everyday Healthy Meals, Network for a Healthy California, 2007.

  1. ChooseMyPlate
  2. ChooseMyPlate: Vegetables, Nutrients, & Health
  3. NC Steps to Health