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By choosing to complete this mail lesson, you have taken the first step in learning more about the importance of nutrition and its relationship to good health. During the lesson about MyPyramid you learned about healthy eating using MyPyramid as your guide. You learned how much of these foods you need to eat each day. This lesson will take a closer look at the vegetable group.
To complete this lesson:
- Carefully read this lesson. It should take about 20-25 minutes to complete.
- Answer the questions at the end of the lesson.
- When you are finished, place the questions in the prepaid envelope and place the envelope in the mail.
The Vegetable Group
The MyPyramid symbol shows six color bands that run from the bottom of the pyramid to the top. There is a color band for each of the five food groups. The sixth band is for oils. The green color band represents the vegetable group, which is the food group that this lesson will focus on.
Vary your veggies! Vegetables provide important nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. It is important to eat a variety of vegetables because different vegetables provide different nutrients. For good health, adults should try to eat 2 ½ cups of vegetables a day.
- The vegetable group includes all fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and 100% vegetable juice.
- Vegetables provide important nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. These are the same nutrients that are often high in fruits.
- It is important to eat a variety of vegetables because different vegetables provide different nutrients.
- Did you know the color of a vegetable often tells you what nutrients it provides? Try to include different colored vegetables throughout the week to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need.
- Choose dark green vegetables several times per week. They provide needed nutrients like folic acid and dietary fiber.
- Cooked dry beans, peas and lentils are a great source of fiber; include them into your meal planning.
- Choose orange vegetables several times per week. They are a good source of vitamin A, which is important to fight infection.
How much do you need to eat?
The exact amount of fruits and vegetables that you need to eat depends on your age, gender, and how much physical activity you get each day.
A typical adult should try to eat 2 ½ cups of vegetables every day.
What counts as a ½ cup of vegetables?
- ½ cup raw or cooked vegetables
- ½ cup canned vegetables
- 1 cup raw leafy greens or lettuce
- ½ cup 100% vegetable juice
- 1 medium carrot or 6 baby carrots
- ½ cup cooked dry beans or peas
- ½ cup mashed potatoes
- ½ medium boiled or baked potato
- 1 small ear of corn
Vary your veggies! Select vegetables from each of the following groups several times per week.
Dark Green: Broccoli, spinach, leafy greens
Orange: Carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes
Dry Beans and peas: Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, split peas, lentils
Starchy vegetables: Corn, green peas, lima beans, potatoes
Other vegetables: Asparagus, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, green beans, green or red peppers, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, zucchini
Do you remember why eating fruits and vegetables are important?
- Fruits and vegetables are important sources of many nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
- Fruits and vegetables, as part of an overall healthy diet, may help reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases, such as cancer and type 2 diabetes.
- Prevents night blindness
- Fights infection
- May reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease
Good sources of vitamin A: carrots, spinach, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.
- May lower blood pressure
- May reduce the risk of kidney stones
Good sources of potassium:
Sweet potatoes, white potatoes, dried beans, winter squash, and tomato products (paste, sauce and juice).
Fiber helps us to …
- Regulate bowel movements
- Feel full
- Lower blood sugar and cholesterol
- May reduce the risk of getting certain types of cancer
Choose a diet of 20-30 grams of dietary fiber every day. Many vegetables are loaded with dietary fiber, so by eating 2 ½ cups of vegetables every day, you will be well on your way to getting your 20-30 grams of dietary fiber.
- Broccoli (1 cup) = 6 grams dietary fiber
- Carrots (1 cup) = 4 grams dietary fiber
Tips to add fiber to your diet
- Choose romaine lettuce or spinach instead of iceberg lettuce.
- Eat the skins on vegetables when possible, such as potatoes.
- Choose whole vegetables instead of drinking 100% juice.
Eat Healthy Foods and Save Money Too!
Tips to help you and your family eat more vegetables:
- Buy fresh vegetables that are in season. They usually cost less and taste better.
- Stock up on frozen vegetables for quick and easy cooking in the microwave.
- Use a microwave to quickly “zap” vegetables. White or sweet potatoes can be baked quickly this way.
- Vary your veggie choices to keep meals interesting.
- Try crunchy vegetables, raw or lightly steamed.
- Plan some meals around a vegetable main dish, such as a vegetable stir-fry or soup. Then add other foods to go with it.
- Try a main dish salad for lunch. Go light on the salad dressing.
- Include a lettuce salad with your dinner several nights every week.
- Shred carrots or zucchini into meatloaf, casseroles, quick breads, and muffins.
- Include chopped vegetables in pasta sauce or lasagna.
- Grill vegetable kabobs as part of a barbecue meal. Try tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.
- Add lettuce, tomato, green pepper, spinach or onion to sandwiches.
- Eat a soup that contains vegetables.
Make vegetables taste great:
- Many vegetables taste great with a dip or dressing. Try a low-fat salad dressing with raw broccoli, red and green peppers, celery sticks or cauliflower.
- Add color to salads by adding baby carrots, shredded red cabbage, or spinach leaves. Include in-season vegetables for variety through the year.
- Include cooked dry beans or peas in flavorful mixed dishes, such as chili or minestrone soup.
- Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables in a clear container in the refrigerator. Try carrots, celery, broccoli, cucumber slices, small ripe tomatoes, red or green pepper strips.
Vegetable tips for children:
- Set a good example for children by eating vegetables with meals and as snacks.
- Let children decide on the dinner vegetables or what goes into salads.
- Depending on their age, children can help shop for, clean, peel, or cut up vegetables.
- They learn from watching you. Eat fruits and veggies and your kids will too.
- While shopping, allow children to pick out a new vegetable to try later at home.
- Use cut-up vegetables as part of afternoon snacks.
- Children often prefer foods served separately. Rather than mixed vegetables try serving two vegetables separately.
Keep it safe!
- Wash fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating them. Under clean, running water rub fruits or vegetables briskly with your hands to remove dirt and surface germs. Dry after washing with a clean dish towel or paper towel.
- Keep fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, and seafood while shopping, preparing, or storing.