MyPlate illustrates the five food groups that are the healthy diet building blocks using a familiar image — a meal place setting.
The Fruit Group
The Fruit group consists of any fruit or 100% fruit juice. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. The amount of fruit you need to eat depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity. Recommended daily amounts can be found: Daily Fruit Chart.
The Vegetable Group
The Vegetable Groups includes any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice. Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. Based on their nutrient content, vegetables are organized into five subgroups: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables. The amount of vegetables you need to eat depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. Recommended total daily amounts and recommended weekly amounts from each vegetable subgroup can be found: Daily and Weekly Vegetable Chart.
The Grains Group
The Grains Group is made up of any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are examples of grain products. Grains are divided into 2 subgroups, Whole Grains and Refined Grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples include whole-wheat flour, bulgur, oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice. Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. Examples include white flour, de-germed cornmeal, white bread, and white rice. The amount of grains you need to eat depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. Recommended daily amounts can be found: Daily Grain Chart.
The Protein Foods Group
The Protein Foods Group consists of all foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds. Beans and peas are also part of the Vegetable Group. Select a variety of protein foods to improve nutrient intake and health benefits, including at least eight ounces of cooked seafood per week. Young children need less, depending on their age and calorie needs. The advice to consume seafood does not apply to vegetarians. Vegetarian options in the Protein Foods Group include beans and peas, processed soy products, and nuts and seeds. Meat and poultry choices should be lean or low-fat. The amount of food from the Protein Foods Group you need to eat depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity. Most Americans eat enough food from this group, but need to make leaner and more varied selections of these foods. Recommended daily amounts can be found: Daily Protein Foods Chart.
- Choose lean or low-fat meat and poultry. If higher fat choices are made, such as regular ground beef (75-80% lean) or chicken with skin, the fat counts against your maximum limit for empty calories (calories from solid fats or added sugars).
- If solid fat is added in cooking, such as frying chicken in shortening or frying eggs in butter or stick margarine, this also counts against your maximum limit for empty calories (calories from solid fats and added sugars).
- Select some seafood that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies, herring, Pacific oysters, and Atlantic and Pacific mackerel.
- Processed meats such as ham, sausage, frankfurters, and luncheon or deli meats have added sodium. Check the Nutrition Facts label to help limit sodium intake. Fresh chicken, turkey, and pork that have been enhanced with a salt-containing solution also have added sodium. Check the product label for statements such as “self-basting” or “contains up to __% of __”, which mean that a sodium-containing solution has been added to the product.
- Choose unsalted nuts and seeds to keep sodium intake low.
The Dairy Group
The Dairy Group is made up of all fluid milk products and many foods made from milk. Most Dairy Group choices should be fat-free or low-fat. Foods made from milk that retain their calcium content are part of the group. Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, are not. Calcium-fortified soymilk is also part of the Dairy Group. The amount of food from the Dairy Group you need to eat depends on age. Recommended daily amounts can be found: Daily Dairy Chart.
- Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. If you choose milk or yogurt that is not fat-free, or cheese that is not low-fat, the fat in the product counts against your maximum limit for “empty calories” (calories from solid fats and added sugars).
- If sweetened milk products are chosen (flavored milk, yogurt, drinkable yogurt, desserts), the added sugars also count against your maximum limit for “empty calories” (calories from solid fats and added sugars).
- For those who are lactose intolerant, smaller portions (such as 4 fluid ounces of milk) may be well tolerated. Lactose-free and lower-lactose products are available. These include lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk, yogurt, and cheese, and calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage). Also, enzyme preparations can be added to milk to lower the lactose content.
- Calcium choices for those who do not consume dairy products include: kale leaves
- Calcium-fortified juices, cereals, breads, rice milk, or almond milk. Calcium-fortified foods and beverages may not provide the other nutrients found in dairy products. Check the labels.
- Canned fish (sardines, salmon with bones) soybeans and other soy products (tofu made with calcium sulfate, soy yogurt, tempeh), some other beans, and some leafy greens (collard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy). The amount of calcium that can be absorbed from these foods varies.
Oils and Fats
Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like the vegetable oils used in cooking. Oils come from many different plants and from fish. Oils are NOT a food group, but they provide essential nutrients. Therefore, oils are included in USDA food patterns. Some commonly eaten oils include: canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, olive oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil. Some oils are used mainly as flavorings, such as walnut oil and sesame oil. A number of foods are naturally high in oils, like nuts, olives, some fish, and avocados. Foods that are mainly oil include mayonnaise, certain salad dressings, and soft (tub or squeeze) margarine with no trans fats. Check the Nutrition Facts label to find margarines with 0 grams of trans fat. Amounts of trans fat are required to be listed on labels.
Most oils are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats. Oils from plant sources do not contain any cholesterol. In fact, no plant foods contain cholesterol. A few plant oils, however, including coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil, are high in saturated fats and for nutritional purposes should be considered to be solid fats.
Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter and shortening. Solid fats come from many animal foods and can be made from vegetable oils through a process called hydrogenation. Some common fats are: butter, milk fat, beef fat, chicken fat, pork fat (lard), stick margarine, shortening, and partially hydrogenated oil.
Some Americans consume enough oil in the foods they eat, such as nuts, fish, cooking oil, and salad dressings. Others could easily consume the recommended allowance by substituting oils for some solid fats they eat. A person’s allowance for oils depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity. Daily allowances for oils can be found: Daily Oil Chart.
For additional information and tools: choosemyplate.gov