Our body’s need many nutrients from all different kinds of foods to grow properly, fight off infections, and prevent diseases. In order to provide the body what it needs, we need to make sure that we balance our meals by eating all five food groups at most, if not all meals! The five food groups are: Grains, Protein, Vegetables, Fruits, and Dairy. If you only enjoy eating foods from one or two groups, then you may be missing out on other important vitamins and minerals the other food groups have to offer! Now let’s jump into what each food group provides and what the healthiest choices are.
Grains: These are important for providing carbohydrates which are turned into energy in the body. Grains are cereals, bagels, breads, pastas, crackers, rice, tortillas, chips, pretzels, and muffins. Not all grains are healthy though! When you choose a grain for you meal, it should be a WHOLE grain/wheat rather than an ENRICHED grain. You can tell which it is by looking at the ingredient list on the back of the package. Whole grains have more fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Protein: Provides the building blocks to make your muscles big and strong! It also helps your immune system fight off viruses and bacteria! Proteins are eggs, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, and tofu. Like grains, not all choices are healthy. Beef and pork tend to be higher in unhealthy fats which aren’t good for your heart or blood vessels. The healthiest options are fish followed by chicken, turkey, and tofu. Fish is because it contains high amounts of heart healthy fats. Just make sure to limit the amount of fried protein you eat because it usually adds unhealthy fat.
Vegetables: The most powerful of all the food groups, as they contain the most vitamins and minerals! Vegetables are broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, leafy greens, onions, celery, mushrooms, zucchini, and many more! The largest portion of your plate should be these guys at every meal! Keep in mind that potatoes are also considered vegetables, but try to limit eating them in their much less healthy form such as chips and French fries.
Fruits: This food group provides the body with carbohydrates, like the grains, which are turned into energy in the body and also provide high amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals to keep your immune system, skin, blood vessels, and eyes healthy. Fruits are apples, bananas, pears, peaches, plums, grapes, oranges, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and more! Be sure to eat your fruit rather than drink your fruit as fruit juice contains more sugar that isn’t good for your teeth or body.
Dairy: Provides the body with nutrients to help build strong bones and teeth! Dairy is also high in protein as well! Dairy options include: milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream. Healthy dairy options are ones that are low-fat and have little if no added sugar, therefore you should limit the amount of ice cream and flavored milks you consume. Soy milk is a great alternative for those who can’t tolerate cow’s milk as it contains a similar amount of protein. Other milk alternatives such as: almond, rice, and cashew milks contain much lower amounts of protein.
Your plate should look like this one!