Explanation of USDA Food Guide Food Groups and Subgroups: Part Two (1)

Explanation of USDA Food Guide Food Groups and Subgroups: Part Two (1)

Explanation of USDA Food Guide Food Groups and Subgroups: Part Two (1)

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

The federal government''s Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years by a panel of health professionals to reflect the most up-to-date scientific and medical knowledge. The new guidelines emphasize that calories do count; daily exercise is essential to maintain health; choosing a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is important to ensure you get a multitude of nutrients; eating half of your grain servings from whole-grain products will give you a bigger nutritional bang; choosing calcium-rich dairy products daily and emphasizing lean meats, poultry and fish are all wise choices.

Translating this information to a plateful of food is the challenge. Here are some basic guidelines that will help.

FRUITS

Fruits include all fresh, frozen, dried fruits and fruit juices. In developing the food patterns, only fruit and juices with no added sugars or fats were used. (See “What is the Discretionary Caloric Allowance?” if products with added sugars and fats are consumed.)

The following each count as 1/2 cup (1 serving) of fruit:

  • 1/2 cup cut-up raw or cooked fruit
  • 1/2 cup fruit juice.

VEGETABLES

In developing the food patterns, only vegetables with no added fats or sugars were used.

(See “What is the Discretionary Caloric Allowance?” if products with added sugars and fats are consumed).

  • Dark green vegetables – fresh, frozen and canned green vegetables, cooked or raw. Examples : broccoli, spinach, romaine, collard, turnip and mustard greens.
  • Orange vegetables – fresh, frozen and canned orange and deep yellow vegetables, cooked or raw. Examples : carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin.
  • Legumes – all cooked dry beans and peas and soybean products. Examples : pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu. Dry beans, peas and soybean products are considered part of this group as well as the meat group, but should only be counted in one group.
  • Starchy vegetables – fresh, frozen, and canned starchy vegetables. Examples : white potatoes, corn, green peas.
  • Other vegetables – all fresh, frozen, and canned other vegetables, cooked or raw. Examples : tomatoes, tomato juice, lettuce, green beans, onions.

The following each count as 1/2 cup (1 serving) of vegetable:

  • 1/2 cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetable
  • 1/2 cup vegetable juice
  • 1 cup leafy salad greens

GRAINS

In developing the food patterns, only grains in low-fat and low-sugar forms were used. (See “What is the Discretionary Caloric Allowance?” if products with added sugars and fats are consumed).

  • Whole grains – all whole-grain products and whole grains used as ingredients. Examples : whole-wheat and rye breads, whole-grain cereals and crackers, oatmeal, brown rice.
  • Other grains – all refined grain products and refined grains used as ingredients. Examples : white bread, enriched grain cereals and crackers, enriched pasta, white rice.

The following each count as 1-ounce equivalent (1 serving) of grains:

  • 1/2 cup cooked rice pasta or cooked cereal
  • 1 slice bread
  • 1 small muffin (1 oz., 28 grams)
  • 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal flakes

MEAT, POULTRY, FISH, DRY BEANS, EGGS AND NUTS (MEATS & BEANS)

This includes all meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, nuts and seeds. Most choices would be lean or low fat. (See “ What is the Discretionary Caloric Allowance?” if higher-fat products are consumed). Dry beans, peas and soybean products are considered part of this group as well as the vegetable group, but should only be counted in one group.

The following each count as 1-ounce equivalent:

  • 1 ounce lean meat, poultry or fish
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cooked dry beans or tofu
  • 1 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds

MILK, YOGURT AND CHEESE (MILK)

This includes all milks, yogurts, dairy desserts, cheese (except cream cheese), including lactose-free and lactose-reduced products. Most choices should be fat-free or low-fat. In developing the food patterns, only fat-free milk was used. (See “What is the Discretionary Caloric Allowance?” if low-fat, reduced-fat or whole milk or milk products that contain added sugars are consumed). Calcium-fortified soy beverages are an option for those who want a non-dairy calcium choice.

The following each count as 1 cup (1 serving) of milk:

  • 1 cup milk or yogurt
  • 1 1/2 ounces natural cheese such as cheddar
  • 2 ounces processed cheese

(Note: Discretionary calories must be counted for all choices except fat-free milk).

WHAT IS THE DISCRETIONARY CALORIC ALLOWANCE?

The discretionary caloric allowance is the remaining amount of calories in each caloric level after nutrient-dense forms of each food group are selected. If you are trying to lose weight you may not want to use discretionary calories. If you want to maintain your weight, a certain number of discretionary calories are available in case you want to increase the amount of food selected from one or more food groups; consume foods that are not in the lowest fat form or that contain added sugars; add oil, fat or sugars to food; or consume alcohol.

The number of discretionary calories assumes that the food items in each food group are selected in nutrient-dense forms. Solid fat and sugar calories need to be counted as discretionary calories as in the following examples:

  • The fat in low-fat, reduced-fat, whole milk, milk products or cheese and the sugar and fat in chocolate milk, ice cream, puddings, etc.
  • The fat in higher-fat meats (e.g. ground meat with more than five percent fat by weight, poultry with skin, higher-fat luncheon meat, sausages).
  • The added fat and/or sugars in vegetables with added fat or sugars.
  • The added fats and/or sugars in grain products containing higher levels of fats and/or sugars (e.g. sweetened cereals, higher-fat crackers, pies and other pastries, cakes, cookies).

Total discretionary calories should be limited to the amounts shown in Table 1 at each caloric level. The number of discretionary calories is lower in the 1,600-calorie pattern than in the 1,000, 1,200 and 1,400 patterns because these lower-calorie patterns are designed to meet the needs of children 2 to 8 years old. The nutrient goals for the 1,600-calorie pattern are set to meet the needs of adult women, which are higher and require more calories.

WHAT TYPES OF FATS ARE ACCEPTABLE?

The amount of solid fats, or oils, in Table 1 represent about seven to eight percent of the calories from saturated fat. Foods in each group represent the lowest fat form, such as fat-free milk and skinless chicken. Solid fats shown in Table 1 represent the amounts that may be added in cooking or at the table and fats consumed when higher fat items are selected from the food groups (i.e. whole milk instead of fat-free milk, chicken with skin, or biscuits instead of bread), without exceeding the recommended limits on saturated fat intake. Choose solid fats that contain as little trans fat as possible. One tablespoon equals approximately 14 grams.

TRANSLATING THE USDA FOOD GUIDE INTO A PLATEFUL OF FOOD

(based on an 1800-calorie diet)

  • Breakfast –A banana, oatmeal and an eight-ounce serving of skim milk. If you would rather use low-fat milk know that it is about 45 of your discretionary calories and whole milk is 90 calories. If you need 2,200 calories each day, you can have a larger serving of oatmeal.
  • Lunch – A turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato, fresh carrot sticks, an orange and water or a diet beverage.

If you don''t want the lettuce and tomato on your sandwich, then make a side salad. You can use 1 teaspoon of mustard, which accounts for about 6 calories. If you prefer a tablespoon of salad dressing, you will use about 100 discretionary calories (use reduced-fat salad dressing for half the calories). You can either eat the orange with your lunch or save it for your afternoon snack. If you want regular soda, you will use 150-170 discretionary calories.

  • Dinner – Grilled salmon fixed with lemon juice or a spice that does not contain extra calories, a baked sweet potato, sautéed vegetables, rice, a slice of whole-grain bread, a cup of skim milk and cantaloupe for dessert.

The vegetables can be sautéed with no more than a 1/2 tablespoon of oil per three servings. You have a tablespoon of margarine to use on your baked potato, rice and bread. If you use more oil (1 tablespoon = 100 calories) or more margarine (1 tablespoon = 100 calories), these extra calories need to be subtracted from the discretionary calories. If you choose low-fat milk for your beverage, it is about 45 of your discretionary calories and whole milk is 90 calories. For an additional beverage, you can choose water or a diet beverage. If you choose regular soda or sweetened tea, you will use 150-170 discretionary calories.

(1). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. United States Department of Agriculture.

Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N., is a nutritionist with a master''s degree in clinical nutrition. She is a registered dietitian with over 30 years of experience in promoting healthy active lifestyles to consumers. She is also the publisher and nutrition editor of KHF and a runner, cyclist and hiker.