The food groups are part of a method of classification for the various foods that humans consume in their everyday lives, based on the nutritional properties of these types of foods and their location in a hierarchy of nutrition. Eating certain amounts and proportions of foods from the different categories is recommended by most guides to healthy eating as one of the most important ways to achieve a healthy lifestyle through diet. Different food guides vary in the number of categories used to divide types of food, but the majority of them include the following classifications:
USDA Food Pyramid (1992) Food Groups
Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta Group
Grain products include foods derived from cereal crops. Cereals, breads, pastas, crackers, and rice all fall under this categorization. Grains supply food energy in the form of starch, and are also a source of protein. Whole grains contain dietary fiber, essential fatty acids, and other important nutrients. Milled grains, though more palatable, have many nutrients removed in the milling process and thus are not as highly recommended as whole grains. Whole grains can be found especially in oatmeal, brown rice, grits, corn tortillas and whole wheat bread. 6-11 servings of grain products are recommended per day.
A vegetable is a part of a plant consumed by humans that is generally savory (not sweet) and not considered grain, fruit, nut, spice, or herb. For example, the stem, root, flower, etc. may be eaten as vegetables. Vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals; however, different vegetables contain different spreads, so it is important to eat a wide variety of types. For example, green vegetables typically contain vitamin C, dark orange and dark green vegetables contain vitamin A,and bushy vegetables like broccoli and related plants contain iron and calcium. Vegetables are very low in fats and calories, but cooking can often add these 3-5 servings of vegetables in a day. They may be fresh, frozen, canned, or made into juice.
These include apples, oranges, plums, berries, and grapes, etc. Fruits are low in calories and fat and are a source of natural sugars, fibre and vitamins. Processing fruits when canning or making into juices unfortunately often adds sugars and removes nutrients; therefore fresh fruit or canned fruit packed in juice rather than syrup is recommended. The fruit food group is sometimes combined with the vegetable food group. It is best to consume 2-4 servings of fruit in a day. They may be fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or made into juice.
Note that many foods that are considered fruits in botany because they bear seeds are not considered fruits in cuisine because they lack the characteristic sweet taste. For example, all grains, nuts
Milk, Yogurt & Cheese Group
Dairy products are produced from the milk of mammals, most usually but not exclusively cattle. They include milk and yogurt and cheese. They are the best source for the mineral calcium, but also provide protein, phosphorus, vitamin A, and in fortified milk, vitamin D. However, many dairy products are high in fat, which is why skimmed products are available as an alternative. For adults, 2-3 servings of dairy products are recommended per day.
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs & Nuts Group
Meat is the tissue - usually muscle - of an animal consumed by humans. Since most parts of many types of animals are edible, there is a vast variety of meats. Meat is a major source of protein, as well as iron, zinc, and vitamin B. Meats include beef, chicken, pork, salmon, tuna, and shrimp, etc.
However, since many of the same nutrients found in meat can also be found in foods like eggs, dry beans, and nuts, such foods are typically placed in the same category as meats, as meat alternatives. These include tofu, products that resemble meat or fish but are made with soy, eggs, and cheeses.
Although meats provide energy and nutrients, they are often high in fat and cholesterol, and can be high in sodium. Simply trimming off fatty tissue can go a long way towards reducing this negative effect. 2-3 servings per day of meat or alternatives are recommended. For those who are ethically opposed (see Vegetarianism and Taboo food and drink) to consuming meat or animal products, meat analogues such as tofu are available to fill this nutritional niche.
Fats, oils and sweets
Fats, oils, and sweets is the designation given to those foods that do not fit into any of the previous nutritional categories. Salad dressings, butter, lard and mayonnaise all fall under the category of fats and oils, while candies and sweets fall under the sugars category. They provide calories, usually without any other vitamins or nutrients. However, they are not entirely bad, and must be consumed moderately.
USDA MyPyramid (2005) Food Groups
The current food groups are:
For more information see MyPyramid
- Food guide pyramid (1992)
- MyPyramid (2005)
- Nutritional rating systems
- Nutrition label
- List of culinary fruits
- List of culinary vegetables
- List of edible seeds