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MyPlate and Food Groups

Remember the Food Guide Pyramid? Did you find it confusing? If so, you’re not alone. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognized that the former Food Guide Pyramid was confusing and has come up with an easier-to-understand guide to eating healthfully. It’s called MyPlate. MyPlate is a picture of a plate that shows us how to divide our plate to ensure we get enough of each food group. But why is food divided into groups? Read on to find out.

Foods are categorized into 6 basic groups: fruits, vegetables, grains [& starches], protein, dairy, and fats & oils. Each group is represented by foods that share similar amounts of calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. You need all food groups for your body to work well and to avoid developing nutrient deficiencies, which can cause major health problems. We’ll explore which foods fall into each group in future articles.

One of the basics of good nutrition is to include all food groups at all meals. This means that at meals, include a fruit, vegetable, grain, protein, and dairy. You will probably get some fats and oils with those other groups, so there’s no need to add fat or oil. In fact, Americans usually consume enough, if not too much, fat without adding any. Here’s an example of a meal that includes all food groups. I’ve also listed which group each of these foods goes into. Example lunch: lettuce salad (vegetable), orange (fruit), and sandwich with bread (grain) + chicken (protein) + lettuce (bonus vegetable) + tomato (bonus vegetable) + 2 slices of cheese (dairy). Let’s say you were feeling full after eating the salad and sandwich. However, between the sandwich and salad, you haven’t included any fruit. It’s okay to save that orange for a snack! In fact, I often save fruit for a snack later.

For more information on foods, food groups, and nutrition, check out the USDA’s website, www.ChooseMyPlate.gov. Stay tuned for future posts about the different food groups and which foods go in which group!


Lynn Grant R.D., L.D., CDE is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She works at Capital Region Medical Center and provides diabetes education and outpatient nutrition counseling by appointment. She also writes a weekly blog, which you can view at nutritionnotions.wordpress.com.