Food Groups


Adopting a healthy eating plan means including foods from all of the basic food groups. It should be low in saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars. It contains enough calories for good health but not too many so that you gain weight. A healthy eating plan also emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nts. It also allows for reasonable portion sizes to control calories and prevent unhealthy weight gain.

A healthy eating plan:
Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
Includes lean meats, poultry fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
Is low in saturated fats, trans fat, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.
Controls portion sizes.

Grains
Grains such as wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, and barley are naturally low in fat and provide vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates-- all important for good health. Examples of grain products are breads, pasta, breakfast cereals, grits, tortillas, couscous, and crackers. Whole grain foods such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal also have fiber that helps protect you against certain diseases and keeps your body regular. Fiber can also help you feel full with fewer calories.

Vegetables
Most vegetables are naturally low in calories, fat, and cholesterol, and are filling. They are also important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C. People who eat more vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a lower risk of some chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Any vegetable or 100 percent vegetable juice counts as a member of the vegetable group. Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut up, or mashed. To get the most health benefits, vary the types of vegetables you eat. Eat more dark green and orange vegetables.

Fruits
Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. None have cholesterol. Fruits are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and folate. Whole or cut up fruits also contain fiber which can provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories. People who eat more fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Any fruit or 100 percent-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. To get the most health benefits, eat a variety of fruits and go easy on fruit juices to avoid getting too many calories.

Milk
Milk and milk products such as yogurt and cheese provide nutrients that are vital for the health and maintenance of your body. These nutrients inlude calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein. People who have a diet rich in milk and milk products can lower their risk of low bone mass (osteoporosis) and maintain healthy bones throughout the life cycle. Whole milk dairy foods contain unhealthy saturated fats, so it's a good idea to choose low-fat or fat-free milk products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. If you can't tolerate milk, try lactose-free milk products.

Meat and Beans
All foods made from meat, poultry, fish, dry beans or peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds are considered part of this group. The foods in this group give you many nutrients, including protein; B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6); vitamin E; and minerals such as iron, zinc, and magnesium. Meats, especialy high-fat processed meats such as bologna, contain saturated fats and cholesterol, so it's a good idea to limit these, or to try lower fat varieties. Also choose poultry, fish, beans, and peas more often. Nuts and seeds can be included for variety since they contain healthy fats, however, limit the amount to avoid getting too many calories. Bake, broil, or grill your meats.

Oils and fats
Unsaturated oils are necessary for good health in small amounts. Oils and solid fats both contain about 120 calories per tablespoon so the amount of oil you use needs to be limited to balance your total caloire intake. It's especially important to limit saturated fat, which is found in whole dairy foods, many meats, butter, and lard, and raises bloode cholesterol levels and thus the risk for heart disease. Most of your fat should be from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. Limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening, and lard.

Remember:
A calorie is a calorie is a calories whether it comes from fat or carbohydrate. Anything eaten in excess can lead to weight gain. You can lose weight by eating less calories and by increasing your physical activity. Reducing the amount of fat and saturated fat that you eat is one easy way to limit your overall calorie intake. However, eating fat-free or reduced fat foods isn't always the answer to weight loss. This is especially true when you eat more of the reduced fat food than you would of the regular item. For example, if you eat twice as many fat-free cookies, you have actually increased your overall calorie intake. Remember that just because a product is fat-free does not mean it is calorie-free!