Balancing the Four Food Groups for Healthy Eating: Part 2

Sliced cheese and bread

In Part 1 of this two-part blog series that dives into the four main food groups, we covered fruits, vegetables, meats and proteins. In this post, we’re discussing the two other main food groups you should know more about for healthy eating:

  • Dairy
  • Grains


Healthy food choices from the dairy group provide your body with protein, calcium and vitamin D. All of these are nutrients that you need for strong bones and healthy teeth, but milk isn’t your only option. In addition to milk, healthy dairy sources include cheese and yogurt.

The biggest concerns with the dairy group are calories and fat content. When choosing dairy foods, it’s important to choose low-fat options that offer calcium and vitamins without extra fat:

  • Skim or 2% milk
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Light yogurt

*Be sure to also look for food choices with a lower sugar content, as sugar is sometimes added to products when fat is removed.

It is recommended that adults consume three servings of dairy products each day. This could be one cup of low-fat or skim milk, one cup of low-fat yogurt or one to one and a half ounces of cheese. Bonus: many of these foods also pack added protein!


Grains provide your body with energy from carbohydrates. They are made from wheat, rice, barley or corn and are typically high in fiber and B vitamins. Examples include:

  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Tortillas
  • Cereal

The healthiest grains are whole grains, or grains that include the entire kernel. Whole grains include brown rice, whole grain pasta and whole grain bread. On the opposite end is refined grains, which have been processed to remove the bran and germ. Grains are often processed because they give products a finer texture, but a lot of nutrients are stripped in the process.

Refined grains include:

  • White bread
  • White pasta
  • White rice

When given an option, the healthiest choice is always to opt for whole grains.

It is recommended that adults eat between five and eight one-ounce servings of grains each day. You may need more if you are more active. The key to eating grains is to pay attention to portion sizes, as grain-based dishes can also be high in carbs. Many nutrition plans recommend low-carb eating, but the approach you take is up to you and your healthcare provider.

Want more information about food science and nutrition? Click Here to check out the Obesity Action Coalition’s Living Well Guide which is filled with healthy living tips.

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