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Importance of Food Groups
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Most recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has come out with a new food model, MyPlate, to represent the five food groups Americans should eat to make sure they are getting a healthy, nutrient-dense diet.  The five different food groups - Grains, Vegetables, Fruit, Dairy, and Protein – make up the foundation for providing your body with all the essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes necessary for staying healthy and enhancing your wellness during your childhood and all the way up to adulthood.  Follow these simple guidelines and you will be on your way to a healthy lifestyle!

GRAINS GROUP – The Grains group consists of wheat, rice, oats, barley, and cereal grain.  By providing your body with an abundance of B-vitamins and important minerals, you can be assured that you will have the energy to get through your busy day.  Sometimes called “Brain Food”, grains are considered CARBOHYDRATES and are the #1 form of energy for your brain, in addition to all the cells in your body.  Furthermore, grains are jam-packed with fiber, which helps keep your digestive track happy and healthy.  Choose foods that are made with whole-grain and less processed ingredients such as whole wheat bread, corn tortillas, whole grain cereal, steel-cut oatmeal, and popcorn.  Remember to check the serving size for your age, height and weight!

VEGETABLE GROUP – Everyone knows what vegetables are and the newest version of MyPlate puts a huge emphasis on increasing your veggie intake.  But unfortunately, vegetables are the least consumed food group from MyPlate, yet they are so important for our body.  Vegetables offer our bodies necessary vitamins and minerals that can prevent cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and many other diseases caused by aging.  The best thing you can do for your body is to eat 2 ½ - 3 cups per day of a “rainbow of color” - red, green, orange, yellow, and purple vegetables.  Make it fun and pretty!

FRUIT GROUP - Considered “nature’s candy,” fruit goes hand-in-hand with vegetables.  And for good reason!  Fruit is incredibly nutrient-dense and can help decrease the risk of bone loss, kidney stones, boost your immunity, and make you feel vibrant.  Cover one side of your plate with fruit and vegetables!

DAIRY GROUP – Making sure to eat your dairy products will help you grow big, strong muscles and bones. Abundant in Vitamin D and Calcium, dairy can come from a variety of sources, such as milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream.  Remember to choose low-fat or non-fat versions of your favorite type of dairy to cut down on calories, sugar, and fat.  If you are lactose intolerant, non-dairy products, almond, rice, or soy milk are still rich in calcium, Vitamin D, & minerals.

PROTEIN GROUP – Making sure to get a diet plentiful in lean protein will keep your metabolism burning and your body energized.  Dense in B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, Vitamin E, in addition to many more nutrients, protein shouldn’t be forgotten.  Choose foods such as lean red meat, white skinless chicken breast, eggs, soy products, beans & legumes, seafood, nuts & seeds turkey, and pork.  With such a variety, you won’t have to worry about becoming protein deficient.  For those that have chosen a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, make sure you are combining protein sources so you can make a complete protein.   

By: Jill Latham, Author of Nutrition Concierge

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