During recent years importance of B complex vitamins, beta-carotene and vitamin C has been realised in terms of their antioxidative and anticarcinogenic properties. Fruits and vegetables are the rich sources of these vitamins. However, there are considerable cooking losses of vitamins, and information on vitamin contents of cooked foods is essential for assessing the adequacy of vitamin intakes. Secondly, there is a growing trend to consume ready-to-eat foods such as stuffed pancakes (samosa, patties), pastries, French fries; replacing traditional foods for lunch or dinner like roti, vegetable curry, bread, non-vegetarian items. Ready-to-eat foods are considered to give empty calories rather than a balanced diet. A study was undertaken to estimate ascorbic acid, folic acid, riboflavin, thiamine and beta-carotene of 263 cooked food samples and 260 meals representing dietary patterns of Asia, Africa, Europe, USA and Latin America by spectrophotometry and photoflurometry. A broad range of beta-carotene (84-2038 mcg%), riboflavin (0.01-0.48 mg%), thiamine (0.04-0.36 mg%), vitamin C (1-28 mg%) and folate (26-111 mcg%) was observed in individual foods. Bakery products and sweets were found to be poor sources and green leafy vegetables and fruits were good sources of these five vitamins. The differences between ready-to-eat foods and meals consumed during lunch or dinner were prominent for beta-carotene, ascorbic acid, riboflavin and folic acid (P < 0.05). The cooking losses were 34.6, 30, 52.2, 45.9 and 32.2% in case of ascorbic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, beta-carotene and folic acid respectively. Irrespective of whether it is ready-to-eat or a lunch/dinner food item, the contribution of vegetables in the preparations was found to make a marked impact on the vitamin profile. While results justify the concept of a food pyramid, emphasis needs to be given to types of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins; preferably in their uncooked form, rather than considering their total consumption.