Do I Really Need to Eat from All the Food Groups?

Balanced Food Groups

You’ve heard of the five to six major food groups. Try to imagine the pie charts or pyramids you’ve seen inside health articles, online or on posters at your doctor’s office. From early on, we’re trained to regard these food groups as key to a healthy diet and healthy weight.

What Are the Major Food Groups?

Not ringing a bell? Need a quick refresher? The major food groups we’re all conventionally trained to model our nutrition habits after are as follows:

  • Carbohydrates – Including bread, cereal, rice, pasta, etc.
  • Vegetables – Including broccoli, carrots, corn, peas, spinach and squash.
  • Fruits – Including apples, oranges, bananas, grapes and watermelon.
  • Dairy – Including yogurt, cheese, etc.
  • Proteins – Including meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, nuts, etc.
  • Fats, oils and sweets

Nutrition “Rules” Are Different for Everybody… but They Have this in Common

We seem to get this question a lot – “Do I really need to eat from all the food groups?”

The truth is, nutrition plans look different for everybody – and they rightfully should. We each have different nutritional needs and specifications based on our bodies and personalities. For example, a vegetarian might eat all foods other than meat, which makes up a large percentage of the “protein” group. On the other hand, someone who is advised to go on a low-carb eating plan might not eat much from the “carbohydrate” group. Even more so, those of us trying to manage our weight typically try to shy away from the “fats, oils and sweets” group to stay on-top of our health goals.

So what exactly do these food groups mean if we’re all so different? The trick here is to think about balance and variety. The true key to a healthy diet is diversity. Our bodies require a variety of different nutrients that we often don’t think about. We know some of the basic ones, but there’s a whole lot that we don’t even think about! (Examples include Potassium, Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Zinc, just to name a few)

That’s where food groups come in. Eating different types of food helps give our body all the nutrients it needs while preventing boredom and repetition. Plus, in general, we need certain nutritional components out of each group. For example, our bodies require protein to build and repair tissue, grow cells, etc., while they also need fiber, iron and minerals that are largely found in fruits and vegetables.

So the answer is not a simple “yes” or “no” question, but a question as to what your body needs and where you want to gain your nutrients from. Just remember, balance and variety are keys to a healthy and sustainable diet. If you have specific questions about nutrition and food, try talking to a registered dietitian for professional help.

To learn more about whether a registered dietitian may be right for you, CLICK HERE.

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