Healthy Diet Planning Guidelines: Nutrients & Food Groups

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The USDA developed healthy diet planning guidelines to help Americans choose foods that promote their health. Learn the benefits of a healthy eating plan, discover the recommended dietary guidelines, explore the nutrients in the five food groups, and review the USDA's food guides. Updated: 10/04/2021

Benefits of a Healthy Eating Plan

Living in a world where a variety of foods are readily available is a blessing. Food is around us constantly and we are bombarded by ads on TV, flashy food labels in stores and convenient food options at every turn. Yet many of these foods are highly processed and low in nutrients, which can make it tough and somewhat confusing when trying to choose the healthiest eating plan.

It's good to keep in mind that healthy eating is not about depriving yourself of all of your favorite foods or about trying to be super skinny. Instead, following a healthy eating plan is about bringing benefits to your life that include feeling good, stabilizing your mood, providing energy, maintaining your ideal weight and helping you avoid diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. With these benefits in mind, let's take a look at how to develop a healthy eating plan.

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  • 0:01 Benefits of a Healthy…
  • 1:00 Dietary Guidelines for…
  • 1:29 Five Good Groups
  • 3:35 Nutrients from the Food Groups
  • 4:09 USDA Food Guides
  • 5:33 Lesson Summary
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Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The U.S. government provides some help with choosing a healthy diet through the dietary guidelines for Americans, which are diet and lifestyle recommendations designed to reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote health. These recommendations come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which you may know by its initials USDA, with some help from Health and Human Services. These two departments work together and update their recommendations every five years.

Five Food Groups

The guidelines recommend that you get your daily nutrients from five food groups. The first food group to consider is vegetables, and the important thing to recall when selecting these foods is to 'vary your veggies.' A diet that contains a variety of dark-green and red and orange choices, mixed in with beans and starchy vegetables provides a powerful punch of nutrients.

Of course, you cannot sustain yourself on vegetables alone, so the dietary guidelines also recommend the fruits food group. In fact, fruits are so nutritious that there should be a 'focus on fruits' that includes selecting whole fruits, like apples and oranges, more often than fruit juice.

Another important food group is grains. Grains come in many forms and some are refined to a point where many of their nutrients have been removed. Because of this, the government recommends that you 'make half your grains whole.' Whole grains contain the entire seed of the plant, which includes the bran, the germ and the endosperm. When a grain is refined the bran and germ are removed along with many of the nutrients.

The guidelines also recommend adding the dairy food group to your eating plan, so remember to 'drink your dairy,' but make it low-fat or no-fat to meet the government recommendation.

The five food groups are rounded out with the protein food group. Protein can be found in animal products, such as meats and eggs, but the important point to recall is that you should 'go lean with protein' to avoid saturated fats and cholesterol that can have negative health implications. This means you want to include a variety of protein choices by adding lean meats, poultry, seafood, nuts and seeds, as well as beans to your healthy eating plan.

You might recall that beans were also part of the vegetable group, which makes them somewhat unique. Beans contain nutrients found in vegetables, such as fiber, folic acid and potassium, but they also provide minerals found in meats, such as iron and zinc. Because of their unique blend of nutrients, they fit in both categories.

Nutrients from the Food Groups

Choosing foods in these five food groups that are low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugar provides your body with the nutrients needed for a healthy eating plan. For example, foods found in the protein group give your diet a 'zip' by providing zinc, iron and protein along with B vitamins. Vegetables, fruits and whole grains increase your intake of fiber, vitamins, folic acid, and potassium. Adding low-fat dairy foods also increases potassium intake, while at the same time providing calcium and vitamin D.

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