The current study was designed to determine the maximal amount of alpha-tocopherol intake obtained from food in the U.S. diet, and to examine the effect of different food group intakes on this amount. Data from 2138 men and 2213 women aged >18 y were obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2002. Linear programming was used to generate diets with maximal alpha-tocopherol intake, with the conditions of meeting the recommended daily allowances or adequate intakes for a set of nutrients, sodium and fat recommendations, and energy limits, and that were compatible with the observed dietary patterns in the population. With food use and energy constraints in models, diets formulated by linear programming provided 19.3-24.9 mg alpha-tocopherol for men and women aged 19-50 or >50 y. These amounts decreased to 15.4-19.9 mg with the addition of the sodium, dietary reference intake, and fat constraints. The relations between maximal alpha-tocopherol intake and food group intakes were influenced by total fat restrictions. Although meeting current recommendations (15 mg/d) appears feasible for individuals, dramatic dietary changes that include greater intakes of nuts and seeds, and fruit and vegetables, are needed. Careful selection of the highest vitamin E source foods within these groups could further increase the likelihood of meeting the current recommended daily allowance.