Everyone has heard about the importance of following a balanced diet, but how do you know what the right balance is? The goal of a balanced diet is to consume an appropriate amount of calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. Food can be divided into food groups according to its calorie and nutrient content. This means that you can consume any food within a food group and get a similar amount of nutrients. The amount of calories will depend on the amount that you consume.
Food guides have been categorizing foods into food groups since 1916 and have undergone many changes:
- 1916 Caroline Hunt buying guide: five food groups were milk and meat; cereals; vegetables and fruits; fats and fat foods; and sugars and sugary foods
- 1930’s H.K. Stiebeling buying guide: 12 food groups were milk; lean meat, poultry and fish; dry mature beans, peas, and nuts; eggs; flours and cereals; leafy green and yellow vegetables; potatoes and sweet potatoes; other vegetables and fruit; tomatoes and citrus; butter; other fats; and sugars
- 1940’s Basic Seven foundation diet: seven food groups were milk and milk products; meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dried beans, peas and nuts; bread, flour, and cereals; leafy green and yellow vegetables; potatoes and other fruit and vegetables; citrus, tomato, cabbage, and salad greens; and butter-fortified margarine
- 1956-1970’s Basic Four foundation diet: milk group; meat group; bread and cereal; and vegetable-fruit group
- 1979 Hassle-Free foundation diet: five food groups were milk-cheese group; meat, poultry, fish, and beans group; bread-cereal group; vegetable-fruit group; and fats, sweets, and alcohol group
- 1984 to present Food Guide Pyramid: six food groups were milk, yogurt, and cheese; meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dry beans, and nuts; breads, cereals, rice, and pasta; vegetables; fruit; and fats, oils, and sweets
Another feature of the Food Pyramid Plan is the food-gallery section. This section provides images of the serving sizes of foods in each of the food groups. Many people complain about serving sizes being too small. Serving size is a standard unit of measurement, not the amount that you are supposed to consume. The amount, or number of servings that you consume, is your portion. For example, if the serving size for pasta is ½ cup and you consume 2 cups, that means that your portion is 2 cups and you consumed 4 servings.
The food guides have been separating food into food groups for nearly a century. The current Food Guide Pyramid still emphasizes eating a balanced diet with foods from each of the food groups, but with today’s version of the plan, you can get a personalized plan instead of just general recommendations. This is everyone’s chance to learn how to eat a well-balanced diet.