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Balance with Food Groups

Whenever I teach on food groups – to youth and adults – there are always a few foods I mention that overlap into two food groups. Not that we cannot put them into just one, but because foods have a lot of different nutrients, they might fit into more than one group.

The current guide describing food groups is the MyPlate. The groups included are: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Fats/oils are also included as a group, although you do not see it shown on the Plate.

Eating foods from each food group every day gives balance to your diet. All food groups have nutrients your body needs, but no food group has every nutrient. Since some food groups lack nutrients found in another group, we pair foods together to get in those nutrients.

So, if you are someone who does not eat much fruit, for example, you are missing out on nutrients found just in fruits. You will be hard pressed to fill in that gap of those absent nutrients from one of the other groups. The major message here: eat from all the food groups.

Now, what about those overlapping foods? Remember, foods contain different nutrients, and when high enough in some nutrients, can fit into two groups. Take a look at these examples:

  • Cheese: Dairy & Protein
  • Beans (ie. black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas): Protein & Vegetables
  • Nuts, nut butters, and seeds: Protein & Fat


The great thing with having more than one food group for a single food: you can pick which group you want it to be. For example, if you are serving chicken fajitas with black beans, you can count these foods as 2 protein foods or as 1 protein food (the chicken) and 1 vegetable (the beans) - assuming you have the right portion sizes. In this way, you can make the food groups work to your advantage.

So today... make sure you eat from all the food groups. Leave a comment and let us know how you did it!

For more information, read about each food group and portion sizes through the MyPlate website.

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.