In our last post in this “Age Friendly” series, we talked about how to fill our plates with healthier food choices. Making healthy choices includes knowing about the food groups, and knowing how much of each group you should consume each day.
Let’s start with how much you know already. So, how many basic food groups can you name? Well, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate effort names the following food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy products, along with “other” foods.
We’ll jump in with a look at the first three groups: fruits, vegetables, and grains.
The Fruit Group
According to the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020 – 2025, older Americans generally don’t eat enough fruit. But, what does that mean? How much should be on your plate? Follow this general rule: fruits and vegetables should fill up half of your plate. And, think about eating “across the rainbow” by sampling from variety of brightly colored fruits.
Fruits add important nutrients to our diet and can have significant benefits to our health. Fruit skins even provide a great source of dietary fiber.
Think about the many ways you can include fruits in your meals throughout the day, even in your snacking. Missed out on a serving of fruit for lunch? Consider enjoying an apple, banana or any other whole fruit as a snack.
As always, remember your food safety practices, and always wash fresh fruits right before eating.
The Vegetable Group
Just like the fruit group, you want to think about eating across the rainbow when it comes to vegetables. That is, get a good variety in your diet. Whether the vegetable is dark green, deep red or orange, a starchy vegetable like corn or potatoes, or legumes such as beans and peas, all provide a variety of vitamins, carbohydrates and even fiber needed for a healthy diet.
So, how much should land on your plate? In general, serve up a 1/2 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice for each plate. Note that 1 cup of raw leafy greens can be considered as equivalent to a 1/2-cup serving from the vegetable group, according to the Dietary Guidelines.
The Grain Group
Grain products include foods made with rye, wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, and others.
Many of us enjoy eating pastas, rice dishes, breads, rolls, and other products from the grain group. But, when choosing items from the grain group, look for whole grain products. They provide a rich source of iron, fiber and many of the B vitamins. They also help to keep us feeling full longer, so we don’t have those hunger pangs just a few hours after enjoying a bowl of pasta.
Some grains products we find at the store include refined grains. Manufacturers use refined grains in products like baked goods, since they offer a finer texture and longer shelf life. But, the refining process removes the nutrients and fiber found in whole grains. Make sure to check the product’s nutrition facts label to know what type of grain it contains.
How much of the grain group should hit your plate, then? Grains should fill about 1/4 of your plate, with at least half of those grains being whole grains, according to the Dietary Guidelines.