Why is it important to know the basic food groups?

Food groups simplify dietary recommendations by focusing on foods rather than nutrients. For example, it's much easier to try to eat two cups of fruit a day than 75 milligrams of vitamin C and 25 grams of fiber. Eating a balanced diet is important for our health. Enjoy foods from each of the five food groups and you'll get a fantastic combination of the best nutrients and vitamins.

Understanding the different food groups and how much of each of them should form your diet can help you establish a healthy eating pattern over time. As these foods do not provide any nutritional benefits, they should only be eaten from time to time and in limited quantities. Foods and beverages such as soft drinks, soft drinks, cookies, pastries and confectionery products are high in added sugar and high in kilojoules. Most sweetened beverages don't help meet food group goals and often contain a lot of calories.

Try to keep foods such as butter, margarine, cooking oils and salad dressings to a minimum and save chocolate, chips, sugary soft drinks, candies, jam, cream, cakes, pudding, cookies and pastries for the occasional treat. The daily intake amounts listed in cups or ounces may not actually translate into cups or ounces of the food you are eating. Foods and beverages that are high in fat, salt, or sugar include chocolate, pastries, cookies, savory snacks, and high-sugar soft drinks. These foods, sometimes referred to as “junk food”, “discretionary options” or “occasional foods”, can sometimes be enjoyed, but should not be included regularly in a healthy diet.

It is important to consume the recommended amount from each food group without exceeding the recommended daily calories. Try not to add extra fat to starchy foods by adding butter, oil, spreads, cheese or jam; that just adds more calories. Healthy eating means eating a wide variety of foods from each of the 5 major food groups, in the recommended amounts. These foods are called “discretionary options” (sometimes referred to as “junk food”) and should only be eaten from time to time.

The equivalents in cups and the equivalents in ounces help you understand the different amounts of food from each food group you should eat. The plant food group includes dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, starchy vegetables, and legumes (beans and peas).