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The following Food Group information is based on the MyPlate food group descriptions. MyPlate divides foods into five main groups, plus two other groups that provide additional information. For more detailed food group information, see the MyPlate government website: www.choosemyplate.gov
Grains are any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain. Whole grains are those that contain the whole grain kernel and refined grains are those that have been milled, which removes the bran (a source of fiber) and the germ (a source of nutrients).
Most refined grains are enriched with certain B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid) and iron. Fiber is not added back to enriched grains. At least half of all grains consumed should be whole grains. Look for salt free, lower fat options.
Grains provide our bodies with many nutrients that are needed to maintain health and help prevent disease. These nutrients include fiber; vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate; and minerals such as iron, magnesium and selenium.
The grain recommendation is counted in terms of "ounce equivalents". In general, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of dry cereal or 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice or pasta can be considered 1 ounce equivalent from the grains group. These are common measures that approximate 1 ounce in weight.
Examples of 1 ounce equivalent of refined grain:
Examples of 1 ounce equivalent of whole grain:
At least half of all grains consumed should be whole grains.
Less common whole grains include: amaranth, millet, quinoa, sorghum, and triticale. Some products are made from a mixture of whole and refined grains. Check the ingredient list and look for the words "whole grain" or "whole wheat" as the first ingredient.
Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a member of the vegetables group. Vegetables may be raw or cooked, fresh, frozen, canned, or dried; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed. Low sodium varieties are recommended.
Added sauces typically count as extra empty calories. The Dietary Guidelines organize vegetables into five subgroups based on their nutrient content. The recommendations include weekly guidelines for each vegetable subgroup, to encourage a varied intake.
Vegetables provide our bodies with many nutrients that are needed to maintain health and help prevent disease. These nutrients include fiber; vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and vitamin E; and minerals such as potassium. Most vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories.
The vegetable recommendations are counted in terms of "cup equivalents". These are common measures that approximate 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens.
Examples of 1 cup equivalent of vegetables from the five subgroups:
Dark Green Vegetables
Dry Beans & Peas
Dry Beans & Peas are also in the protein foods group because they are important sources of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans.
Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up or pureed. For optimal nutritional value, choose whole fruits over juices whenever possible. Choose canned fruits that are packed in water or juice rather than syrup.
Fruits provide our bodies with a variety of nutrients that are needed to maintain health and help prevent disease, so it is important to include a variety of them in your diet. These nutrients include fiber; vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate; and minerals such as potassium. Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories.
The fruit recommendation is counted in terms of "cup equivalents". These are common measures that approximate 1 cup of fruit or 100% juice, or 1/2 cup of dried fruit.
Examples of 1 cup equivalent of fruit:
Fresh, Frozen, and Canned Fruit
Dairy group foods include fluid milk, many products made from milk, and calcium fortified milk substitutes. Foods made from milk that have little calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter are not included in this group (these foods are considered empty calories).
It is recommended to choose fat free or low fat foods from the dairy group, to obtain the nutrient value with the least amount of fat. Lactose-free and lower-lactose products, such as hard cheeses and yogurts are available for those who do not tolerate milk sugar. If you don't or can't consume milk at all, be sure to include calcium-fortified foods such as soy milk or orange juice in your diet.
Foods from the dairy group provide our bodies with many nutrients that are needed to maintain health and help prevent disease. These nutrients include protein, vitamin D, and minerals such as calcium and potassium.
The dairy group recommendation is counted in terms of "cup equivalents". These are common measures that approximate the nutritional value of 1 cup of milk.
Examples of 1 cup equivalent of foods from the dairy group:
Protein Foods Group
All foods made from meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dry beans & peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the protein foods group. Diets that include meat should provide a variety of low fat, low sodium meat, poultry and fish. Vegetarian diets should include plant-based protein sources such as dry beans & peas, soy products, nuts and seeds.
The Dietary Guidelines discuss the health benefits of obtaining more of your daily protein from plant-based foods, and divide the protein foods into several subgroups in order to provide guidance for plant-based diets. The subgroups suggest weekly amounts needed for a nutritionally adequate diet.
Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, soy products, dry beans & peas, nuts and seeds provide our bodies with many nutrients that are needed to maintain health and help prevent disease. These nutrients include protein; vitamins such as niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6 and vitamin E; and minerals such as iron, zinc, and magnesium. Fish, nuts and seeds provide more polyunsaturated fats, which contain essential fatty acids. Dry beans & peas provide more dietary fiber, potassium and folate.
The protein foods group recommendation is counted in terms of "ounce equivalents". These are common measures that provide similar protein to 1 ounce of meat.
Examples of 1 ounce equivalent from the protein foods group:
The Dietary Guidelines encourage eating fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, white tuna, swordfish, or bluefish. Adults and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to eat 8 ounces of high omega-3 seafood per week. Because of the high mercury content, pregnant and breastfeeding women should limit their intake of white tuna to 6 ounces per week, and should avoid tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.
Dry Beans & Peas
Dry beans & peas are also included in the vegetables group.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts & Seeds also contribute to the oil group recommendation.
It's important to consider oils and empty calories in planning a healthy diet.
Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. They come from many different plants; such as corn, safflower, nuts, olives, avocados; and from some fish. Oils are important to include in the diet because they provide essential fatty acids that the body needs to maintain wellness. Trans fats are added to some oils, particularly those in margarines or nut butters, to prolong shelf life. Try to reduce the amount of trans fats in your diet by checking Nutrition Facts labels and choosing foods that do not contain trans fat.
Oils are a concentrated source of calories and are generally consumed in smaller amounts than other foods. They provide our bodies with nutrients that are needed to maintain health and help prevent disease. These nutrients include essential fatty acids (which are polyunsaturated fats) and vitamin E. The oil recommendation is counted in teaspoons.
Foods in the oil group that provide 1 tsp of oil include:
Foods that are Rich in Oils
* Nuts and seeds are part of the protein foods group and contribute both protein and important oils to the diet.
The MyPlate food group recommendations assume that you are choosing a variety of lower fat foods from each food group. If this is so, you may be able to meet your nutritional needs and have some extra calories left over to play with. Extra calories from solid fats, added sugars and alcohol are considered empty calories because they offer calories but few or no other nutrients.
Empty calories are those above what are needed to meet your food group goals, and should make up no more than 5-15% of total calories. The Empty Calorie numbers are meant to be estimates and are not necessarily daily targets.
Solid fats like butter and shortening may contain saturated fat or trans fat, which can have a negative impact on health. Foods high in solid fats include ice cream, cookies, donuts, pastries, croissants, sausages, bacon, and regular cheese.
Sugar added to foods provides calories but little other nutritional value. Foods high in added sugars include regular soft drinks, fruit drinks, and candy.
Alcoholic drinks also provide calories but little other nutritional value. Alcoholic drinks include beer, wine, and mixed drinks. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that if alcohol is consumed, it should be done so in moderation and only by adults. Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. One drink is defined as 12 fl oz of beer, 5 fl oz of wine, or 1.5 fl oz of liquor. Evidence suggests that four or more drinks per day for women and five or more drinks per day for men has harmful health effects. Some situations call for the complete avoidance of alcoholic beverages.