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Key Recommendations for Eating Wisely

Group of fruit including white and green grapes and an orange slice

Eat a variety of foods and beverages from the basic food groups. Choose foods high in fiber; with little added salt or sugars; and low in saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol.

By VA National Center for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention
Thursday, September 1, 2011

Vegetables & Fruit:

  • Eat enough vegetables and fruits (fresh, canned, or frozen) while staying within your energy needs. Aim for 5-9 servings of vegetables and fruits every day (two and one half cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per day). Fresh, canned or frozen fruit is preferred over fruit juice. 
  • Choose a variety of vegetables and fruits each day. In particular, make selections from the different vegetable groups several times a week. Choices should include: dark green (i.e., broccoli, kale, spinach); orange (i.e., carrots, pumpkin, tomato); legumes (i.e., kidney, pinto and black beans, lentils, and peas), starchy vegetables (i.e., potato, corn, plantain) and other vegetables (i.e. beets, eggplant, artichokes, cabbage). Starchy vegetables contain more calories so choose these less often.
  • Canned, dried, and frozen fruits and vegetables are good options. Look for fruit without added sugar or syrups and vegetables without added salt, butter, or cream sauces.

Whole Grains:

  • Eat 3 ounces or more of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice, or pasta per day. One ounce is about 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of breakfast cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta. 
  • For many, but not all "whole-grain" food products, the words "whole" or "whole grain" may appear before the name (e.g., whole-wheat bread). But, because whole-grain foods cannot necessarily be identified by their color or name (brown bread, 9-grain bread, hearty grains bread, mixed grain bread, etc. are not always "whole-grain"), you need to look at the ingredient list. The whole grain should be the first ingredient listed. The following are some examples of how whole grains could be listed: whole wheat; brown rice; quinoa; buckwheat; whole oats/oatmeal; whole rye; bulgur (cracked wheat); sorghum; whole grain; barley; popcorn; millet; or wild rice.

Salt (sodium and potassium): 

  • Eat less than 1 teaspoon of salt (approximately 2,300 mg of sodium) per day. 
  • Choose foods with little added salt and prepare foods without salt when possible. At the same time, eat potassium-rich foods like vegetables and fruits. Good potassium sources are: orange juice, beet greens, white beans, potatoes, tomatoes, tomato paste, and bananas.
  • People who are middle-aged or older, have high blood pressure, or who are African American should limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg of sodium per day. They should also get the recommended potassium (4,700 mg/day) in what they eat and drink.

 Additional recommendations for eating wisely 


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