The 5 Food Groups and What You Need To Be Healthy

We’ve all learned in grade school about the 5 food groups, right? Well today we are going to cover them in a little more depth, as it can get confusing at times to know what we should be eating and just how much is required for us.

We’ve heard the term “recommended daily servings” but what does that mean exactly? Recommended daily servings are meant to help provide us with a healthy balance of the necessary macronutrients and micronutrients.  How many servings of each food group is needed each day? That depends on a variety of factors. These factors include your activity level, age, and gender. Men tend to need more than women in all food groups.

Vegetables

Vegetables and fruits should take up half of your plate. These vegetables can be either frozen or fresh, cooked or raw. 100% vegetable juices also count towards your daily vegetable needs. Why do we need so many vegetables in our diet?  Vegetables are low in fat and calories and are filled with many vitamins and nutrients.

Most vegetables are rich in fibre which helps to lower cholesterol and reduce the risks associated with heart disease. The fibre also helps to keep you feeling fuller longer, which in effect, reduces the number of calories that you consume during the day. It’s a great way to lose weight.

There are 5 subgroups of vegetables to consider:

  • Dark green vegetables: Things like broccoli, spinach, kale, etc.
  • Red and orange vegetables: winter squash, orange and red bell peppers, carrots, etc.
  • Beans and peas which include black beans, garbonzo, kidney beans, soybeans, black-eyed peas, or split peas.
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes, green peas, and corn.
  • Other vegetables like cucumbers, cauliflower, cabbage, and mushrooms.

So how much of these do I eat?

The recommended portions for vegetables include:

  • 3 spears of broccoli (about 5 inches long)…. see that’s not so bad 🙂
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 large green pepper
  • 2 cups (150g) or 1 cooked cup (75g) of leafy greens……. toss it in a salad and you’re good to go 🙂

Fruits

Like your vegetables, fruits should take up half of your plate. Your fruits can be fresh, frozen, dried, juiced, canned, or pureed. 100% fruit juice also counts towards your daily needs. Fruits are low in fat and calories and are filled with many vitamins and nutrients. The 2 best foods for weight loss are your fruits and vegetables!

A fruit serving is considered 1 cup (175g) of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or 1/2 cup (82g) of dried fruit. The following portions are recommended for common fruits:

  • 1/2 large or 1 small apple
  • 1 large banana
  • 32 grapes
  • 1 medium grapefruit
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 large peach
  • 1 medium pear
  • 8 large strawberries

Grains

Grains should make up 1/4 of your plate. Grains include wheat, rice, oats, barley, cornmeal, or any other cereal. Grains provide us with fibre which helps with weight management and reduces the risks associated with heart disease and diabetes. Grains also contain B Vitamins and folate, magnesium, selenium, and iron. At least half of the grains you consume should include whole grains.

Grains are usually measured in ounces (grams). The following portions are recommended for these common grains:

  • 1/2 cup (117g) cooked oatmeal
  • 2 slice of bread
  • 1/2 cup (100g) of cooked pasta
  • 1 mini bagel
  • 1/2 an English muffin
  • 1 small tortilla

Proteins

Proteins help to build our bones, muscles, and blood. Proteins should make up 1/4 of your plate. Proteins provide Vitamin B, iron, magnesium and zinc. They can be animal-based (like meat, seafood, poultry, and eggs) or plant-based (like beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, etc).

Although proteins are an important part of a healthy diet, they can also be high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Because of this, fatty cuts of meat should be limited. You should be consuming about 8 ounces (227g) of fish per week. Proteins are typically measured in ounces (grams).

These are the recommended portions for common proteins:

  • 1 oz (28g) of meat, poultry, or fish
  • 1 whole egg
  • 24 pistachios
  • 12 almonds
  • 1 tbsp of nut butter
  • 1/4 cup (57g) of cooked beans

Dairy

Dairy is essential for bone health and to provide the body with protein. Dairy products also tend to be high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Because of this, it’s often recommended that reduced fat or fat-free options be consumed.

These are the recommended portions for dairy:

  • 1 cup (237ml) milk
  • 8 fluid ounces (237ml) of yogurt
  • 1 1/2 oz (40g) of hard cheese
  • 1 cup (237ml) of soy milk

Oils

Oils have been eliminated from the food groups, however, when they are included, they form the smallest group. Oils, along with sweets, should be consumed rarely. When consumed, they should be either polyunsatured or monounsaturated.

I hope that helps you to understand the 5 food groups, why they’re important to the body, and how much of each portion you should be considered each day to create a more balanced diet for yourself and your family.

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