Food Groups

The USDA Food Guide is a planning reference to assist you in achieving healthy diet choices. The USDA Food guide divides foods into 5 main groups. The foods in each group have similar nutritional content. Choosing foods from each of the food groups encourages a well-balanced eating plan. The amount necessary of each food group is based on person’s own nutritional needs.

Five Main Food Groups:

1. Fruits
2. Vegetable
3. Grains
4. Meats and Legumes
5. Milk

USDA Food Guide:


Food Guides: Consume a variety of fruits and no more than one half of the recommended intake as fruit juice
Major Nutrient Contributions: Folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Fiber
Serving Sizes 1 c. fruit is equivalent to 1 c. fresh, frozen or canned fruit; ½ c. dried fruit; 1 c. fruit juice
Best Choices Apples, apricots, bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, guava, kiwi, mango, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapples, plums, raspberries, strawberries, tangerines, watermelon, dried fruit (dates, figs, raisons)
Choices to Limit Canned or frozen fruit packed in syrup; juices, punches, ades, and fruit drinks with added sugars, fried plantains


Food Guides: Choose a variety of vegetables each day, and choose from all subgroups several times a week
Major Nutrient Contributions: Folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and fiber
Serving Sizes 1 c. vegetables is equivalent to 1 c. cut up raw or cooked vegetables; 1 c. cooked legumes; 1 c. vegetable juice; 2 c. raw leafy greens
Best Choices (a variety of each group each week) Dark green vegetables: Broccoli and leafy greens such as arugula, beet greens, bok choy, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, spinach and turnip greens

Orange and deep yellow vegetables: Carrots, carrot juice, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and winter squash (acorn, butternut)

Legumes: Black beans, blacked eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, pinto beans, soybeans, and soy products such as tofu and edamane, and split peas

Starchy vegetables: Cassava, corn, green peas, hominy, lima beans, and potatoes

Other vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, bamboo shoots, beans sprouts, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cactus, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, egg plant, green beans, ice berg lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, peppers, seaweed, snow peas, tomatoes, vegetable juice, zucchini

Choices to Limit Baked Beans, candied sweet potatoes, coleslaw, French fries, potato salad, refried beans, scalloped potatoes, tempura vegetables


Food Guides: Make at least half of the grains selections whole grains.
Major Nutrient Contributions: Folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, iron, magnesium, selenium, and fiber
Serving Sizes 1 oz. grains is equivalent to 1 slice bread; ½ c. cooked rice, pasta, or cereal; 1 oz. dry pasta or rice; 1 c. ready to eat cereal; 3 c. popped popcorn
Best Choices Whole grains such as amaranth, barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oats, quinoa, rye and wheat; Low fat breads, cereals, crackers and pastas; popcorn

Enriched bagels, breads, cereals, pastas (couscous, macaroni, spaghetti) pretzels, rice, rolls, tortillas

Choices to Limit Biscuits, cakes, cookies, cornbread, crackers, croissants, doughnuts, French toast, fried rice, granola, muffins, pancakes, pastries, pies, pre sweetened cereals, taco shells, waffles

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Legumes, Eggs and Nuts

Food Guides: Make lean or low fat choices. Prepare with little or no added fat.
Major Nutrient Contributions: Meat, Poultry, Fish and Eggs -Protein, niacin, thiamin, Vitamin B 6 Vitamin B 12, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc

Legumes and Nuts- protein, folate, thiamin, Vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and fiber

Serving Sizes 1 oz. meat is equivalent to 1 oz. cooked lean meat, poultry or fish, 1 egg; ¼ c. cooked legumes or tofu; 1 Tbsp. peanut butter; ½ oz. nuts or seeds
Best Choices Poultry without the skin, fish, shellfish, legumes, eggs, lean meat with fat trimmed, lowfat tofu; tempeh, peanut butter, nuts (almonds, filberts, peanuts, pistachio, walnuts) or seeds (flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
Choices to Limit Bacon, baked beans, fried meat, fish, poultry, eggs or tofu; refried beans, ground beef, hot dogs, luncheon meats; marbled steaks; poultry with skin; sausages, spare ribs

Milk, Yogurt and Cheese

Food Guides: Make fat free or low fat choices. Choose lactose free products or other calcium rich foods if you don’t consume milk
Major Nutrient Contributions: Protein, riboflavin, vitamin B 12, calcium, magnesium, potassium and when fortified, Vitamin A and Vitamin D
Serving Sizes 1 c. milk is equivalent to 1 c. fat free milk or yogurt; 1 ½ oz. fat free natural cheese; 2 oz. fat free processed cheese
Best Choices Fat free and fat free milk products such as buttermilk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt; fat free fortified soy milk
Choices to Limit 1 % low fat milk, 2 % reduced fat milk and whole milk; low fat, reduced fat and whole milk products such as cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt; milk products with added sugars such as chocolate milk, custard, ice cream, ice milk, milk shakes, pudding, sherbet, fortified soy milk


Food Guides: Select the recommended amounts among these sources.
Major Nutrient Contributions: Vitamin E, Essential Fatty Acids and abundant calories
Serving Sizes Vitamin E, Essential Fatty Acids and abundant calories
Best Choices Liquid vegetable oils such as canola, corn, flaxseed, nut, olive, peanut, safflower, sesame, soybean, and sunflower oils; mayonnaise, oil based salad dressing, soft trans free margarine

Unsaturated oils that occur naturally in foods such as avocados, fatty fish, nuts, olives, seed (flaxseed, sesame seed) and shellfish

Choices to Limit Hydrogenated shortenings, trans fatty acids, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, palm oil, popcorn oils, non dairy creamers

Solid Fats and Added Sugar

Food Guides: Limit intakes of food and beverages with solid fats and added sugars
Major Nutrient Contributions: Solid fats deliver saturated fat and trans fat and intake should be kept low. Solid fats and added sugars contribute abundant kcalories but few nutrients and should not exceed discretionary allowance.

Kcalories should be met first with nutrient dense foods that allow the needed energy and nutrients necessary. Abundance of solid fat and added sugar can lead to poor nutrient intakes and weight gain.

Alcohol also contributes abundant calories but few nutrients and its kcalories are counted among the discretionary kcalories.

Serving Sizes varies
Best Choices None
Choices to Limit All:

Solid fats that occur in foods naturally such as milk fat and meat fat

Solid fats that are often added to foods such as butter, cream cheese, hard margarine, lard, sour cream and shortening

Added sugars such as brown sugar, candy, honey, jelly, molasses, soft drinks, sugar and syrup

Alcoholic beverages include beer, wine, and liquior

Source: USDA Food Guide