Good Nutrition: Why It’s More than Counting Calories and Carbs

Good Nutrition: Why It’s More than Counting Calories and Carbs

Most of us instantly recognize the 1992 Food Guide Pyramid made by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but not everyone is aware it has been defunct since 2005. In fact, those nutritional guidelines were later viewed as flawed, hard to follow, and lacking appropriate nutritional balance. Also, the chart made no differentiation between types of grains, proteins, dairy, fruits, and vegetables, all of which are very important details.

The Food Guide Pyramid was later replaced with “MyPyramid” in 2005, and again updated and replaced in 2011 with “MyPlate.” These newer nutritional guidelines are easier to follow, as it shows a plate divided into sections, not to mention the website goes into much further detail than you’d find in any nutritional pamphlet in 1992! The USDA site provides extensive resources to explain the importance of each of the five food groups and how much you should be eating on a daily basis, as well as information for people with dietary restrictions or food allergies.

What Is MyPlate and Why Is it Important?

MyPlate, which is funded by the USDA, focuses on variety of foods, portion sizes, and the nutrition provided in each food group and food group subtypes (for example, vegetables is divided into multiple subgroups, such as leafy greens and starchy veggies). Remember, the amount you should eat from each food group depends on your age, sex, level of physical activity, and personal food allergies.

The most important guidelines from MyPlate, by food group, include:

  • Vegetables: It probably goes without saying, but most people don’t eat enough veggies, especially the nutrient-rich veggies (French fries need not apply!). For example, you should eat veggies from each category: dark-green veggies, beans and peas, red and orange veggies, and starchy veggies, among other uncategorized veggies. One cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice or 2 cups of raw leafy greens is one recommended serving, and most healthy adults should be eating between 2 to 3 cups of veggies per day. 
  • Fruits: Fruit may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. In addition, fruits may be whole, cut-up, or pureed. 100% fruit juice is also included in this category, but whole fruits are preferred, because whole fruits offer the fiber and other nutrients not found in most fruit juices. Mix your fruit intake from these categories: berries, melons, and other fruits. In general, 2 cups of fruit is the recommended daily intake for healthy adults.
  • Proteins: Most Americans eat plenty of protein, but should make more varied and leaner selections of these foods. The recommended daily intake of protein foods is 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds.  If you are an omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, you must have protein intake for good health. Meat categories include lean cuts, lean ground meats, lean deli meats, game meats, organ meats, and poultry. Seafood is its own category, and includes subcategories of finfish, shellfish, and canned fish. Eggs are another source of protein for omnivores and vegetarians. Those who follow any diet type, but particularly vegans, must eat beans, peas, nuts and seeds, and/or soy products for a healthy diet (note: beans and peas are also in the vegetable group).
  • Grains: This group has only two subcategories, which includes whole and refined grains. The group contains any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other cereal grains. Examples include bread, pasta, cereals, tortillas, and grits. Whole grains are always preferable from a nutritional standpoint, and they are considered “whole” because they contain the entire grain kernel. On the other hand, refined grains are milled to remove the bran and germ, which makes for a finer texture, but removes important nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins.
  • Dairy: This category includes all fluid milk products and food made from milk that retains the calcium content (that means you can’t add the following to your daily recommended intake: cream cheese, cream, and butter). Aim for lower-fat dairy, such as skim milk, hard natural cheese or soft cheese, and yogurt. Recommended dairy intake varies by age group, but most healthy adults should aim for 3 cups per day. If you do not eat dairy products due to allergy or dietary preference, you can have substitute dairy products, which are technically not dairy, but are calcium-rich. Aim for calcium-fortified juices, cereals, breads, rice milk, or almond milk. 

Have certain dietary restrictions or food allergies and want to learn more? Primary Care Associates of Texas can help you formulate a healthy diet to lose weight the right way. Contact us today at or simply book an appointment online!

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