Understanding Food Groups

Understand the balance between food groups

Food Group One - Bread, Cereals and Potatoes

This group includes main sources of carbohydrates which are an excellent source of energy, fibre, vitamins and minerals. These foods are relatively low in calories and fill you up more than other foods.
• Gluten free pasta
• Rice - ideally choose Basmati.
• Potatoes
• Bread - choose wholemeal/multigrain/rye
• Breakfast cereals - not sugar coated
• Oats – jumbo oats are best as they are less processed
• Rice noodles
• Beans and lentils

Food Group Two - Fruit and Vegetables

This food group contain vitamins, minerals and fibre. They also contain antioxidants that are thought to protect against cancer and heart disease.
• Fresh fruit and vegetables
• Cooked, frozen or canned fruit and vegetables
• Fruit juice (maximum serving 125ml)
• Salads - Aim to fill up on vegetables at meal times as they very beneficial to health.  

Consume no more than two items of fruit each day and avoid fruit tinned in syrup as it is so high in sugar.  Select fruit in natural juice instead.

Aim to eat 5 portions a day - 3 from vegetables, 2 from fruit
• 1 portion is - 1 piece of fruit (apple, orange, 6-8 grapes)
• 2 tbs of vegetables
• 1 small salad
• 80g in weight

Don't forget, potatoes do not count towards your '5 a day'.

Click here for further ideas as to what counts towards your '5 a day' and portion sizes.

Food Group Three - Milk and Dairy Products

This group is an important source of calcium and will help protect you against osteoporosis (brittle bones)
• Milk – dairy and dairy free
• Cheese
• Yogurt
A good target is to have the equivalent of 3/4 pint of milk each day - e.g 1/2 pint semi skimmed milk and a low fat yogurt.

Full fat milk, cheese and yogurt contain high levels of calories. Choose lower fat versions whenever you can. Changing to skimmed or semi skimmed milk and low fat Greek yogurts can significantly reduce your calorie intake.  

Food Group Four - Protein

Animal protein provides essential nutrients, but most people eat more than they need.  Meat products such as sausages or burgers, can contain an unhealthy amount of fat and should be avoided when possible.
Animal protein includes the following.
• Meat - Beef, pork, bacon, lamb, liver, kidney
• Meat products - sausages, beef burgers
• Poultry - chicken, turkey
• Fish - sardines, tuna, salmon

Try to cut down on the quantities of this group and you can make your diet healthier by following these tips:

• Choose plant-based alternatives such as Quorn, Soya, Tofu, Seitan, Tempeh
• Remove any visible fat prior to cooking
• Choose lean cuts of meat
• Avoiding creamy sauces, go for tomato based sauces
• Grilling rather than frying
• Limit red meat to twice a week
• Chicken/turkey - remove the skin before cooking
• Fish of any kind (not baked/fried in batter or bread crumbs) Aim to have 2/3 times a week, Ideally oily fish should be 1/2 of those meals.
• Avoid high fat processed protein products such as sausage rolls, pies, and fast-food

Food Group Five - Foods High in Fat and Sugars

Foods high in fat - butter, cooking oils, mayonnaise, cream, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, pastries, cakes, puddings, ice cream etc.
• Foods high in sugar - Fizzy drinks, sweets, jam, cake, biscuits, pastries, ice cream etc.
This food group should make up less than 10% of your daily food intake. Avoid this group where possible or look out for low fat/low sugar alternatives. Be aware that although a food might be low in fat, and labelled as such, it could be packed with sugar and unnecessary calories.

A healthy well balanced diet contains:

• Plenty of cereals, potatoes, rice, pasta, fruit and vegetables
• Moderate amounts of protein
• Sufficient low fat milk and dairy, calcium rich, products (equivalent to 450ml of milk each day)
• Only small amounts of foods that contain high sugar or fat