MyPlate is a marvelous yet simple visual for guiding Americans to healthy eating. It shows five food groups to include in each meal. Two of the groups, fruits and vegetables, make up HALF of the MyPlate plate. Why? They provide several nutrients that we need for a healthy body, and they can also help to prevent some chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which is filling, and low in calories and fat, so choosing these foods over high fat foods and sugary snacks can help children maintain a healthier weight. Let’s explore everything you need to know about fruits and vegetables and why they are such an important part of the plate.
What are the health benefits to a fruit and vegetable rich diet? And what do those lovely, vibrant colors do for us?
What do the other nutrients in fruits and vegetables do for us?
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps heal wounds and cuts, is important for growth and repair of body tissues, and helps keep teeth and gums healthy.
- Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps to keep skin and eyes healthy and helps to prevent infections.
- Folate. Folate helps the body to make red blood cells, and it reduces the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly during fetal development.
- Potassium. Potassium-rich diets may contribute to healthy blood pressure.
Fruits may be whole, cut up or puréed. And you can choose from fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit. 100% fruit juice is included in the fruit group; however, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that young children consume no more than four to six ounces of 100% fruit juice per day. Also, when choosing canned fruits, look for options with the lowest amount of added sugar. Generally, one cup of fruit, one cup of 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit is considered equivalent to one cup from the fruit group.
The Fruits page on MyPlate.gov has a chart showing the daily recommendations for fruit by age as well as a chart showing what counts as one cup of fruit.
The vegetable group is made up of all vegetables and 100% vegetable juice. Vegetables can be fresh, frozen, canned, or dried, and may be raw or cooked. You can eat them whole, cut up or mashed.
Vegetables are organized into five subgroups based on their nutrient content: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables. It’s important to eat a variety of vegetables to make sure that you are getting the various nutrients contained in the different subgroups of vegetables. Typically, one cup of raw or cooked vegetables, one cup of 100% vegetable juice, or two cups of green leafy vegetables can be considered one cup from the vegetable group.
Beans and peas are unique in that they are considered to be part of the vegetable group as well as the protein group. Like vegetables, they are excellent sources of dietary fiber, folate and potassium. But they are also an excellent source of plant protein and provide iron and zinc. The beans and peas subgroup includes black beans, lima beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas), split peas, and lentils. You may count beans and peas as either a vegetable or a protein food when planning your meals. Not included in the beans and peas subgroup are green peas and green lima beans, which are grouped with starchy vegetables, and green beans, which are grouped with other vegetables.
The Vegetables page on MyPlate.gov has a chart showing the daily recommendations for vegetables by age as well as a chart showing what counts as one cup of vegetables.
The fruits and vegetables groups are filled with a multitude of choices and colors which translate into numerous health benefits for our bodies. For this reason, it’s easy to understand why fruits and vegetables should take up half of the real estate on MyPlate. What else is on MyPlate (and should be on your plate) to balance out your meals? Protein, grains and dairy, along with fruits and vegetables, are all of the building blocks that you need for a healthy diet, and they are on MyPlate to guide us to healthy eating.
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie