Healthy eating means eating a wide variety of foods from each of the five major food groups. It provides a range of different nutrients to the body, promotes good health and also helps reduce the risk of diseases. A wide variety of food also keeps your diet interesting with different textures and flavours. Imagine eating the same food every single day for every meal. Kinda gets boring after a while.
These five major food groups can also be known as your “everyday foods”. To meet the nutrient requirements essential for good health, you need a variety from each group daily in recommended amounts. So, what are the five food groups?
An excellent source of calcium, protein and vitamins such as A, D and B12, dairy is essential for strong and healthy bones. Most people need at least 2-3 servings of dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, cheese and butter each day. One standard serve of dairy can include either 1 cup of milk, 2 slices of hard cheese like cheddar, 1 cup yoghurt or 1 cup soy milk.
Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley and other grains is grain products. Grain-based foods such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles are rich in fibre, vitamin Bs (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate), minerals (iron, magnesium and selenium) and carbohydrates for energy. One standard serving of grains is 500kJ and can include either 1 slice of bread, ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, ¼ cup muesli or 1 small English muffin or scone.
Vegetables should make up a large part of your daily food intake and should be included in every meal, including snack time. Vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fibres and phytonutrients that help keep your body healthy. It also keeps you feeling full and good for your digestive systems. Low in calories, it helps in your diet plan. Try and get at least 5 servings of vegetables per day.
Protein is essential for muscle building, maintaining and repairing tissues in our bodies. Many of the foods we eat contain protein, particularly meats like chicken, beef, lamb and fish and also legumes like beans and lentils. One standard serving of protein is 500-600kJ or about 1 cup cooked dried or canned beans, 1 medium chicken breast, 4 fish fingers or one beef burger.
Fruits provide extra fibres that keep your digestive system moving. Plus, it is rich in vitamins, minerals and may phytonutrients that help your body stay healthy. One standard serving of fruits is about 350kJ or 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear, 1 cup diced or canned fruits with no added sugar, or a half cup of fruit juice.
The key to healthy eating is to enjoy a variety of nutrients from each of the 5 food groups.