What are the Four Food Groups?

We’ve been told time and time again – eat X amount of fruits, veggies, meats, dairy and grains. Why? Well, these are the four basic food groups.

They’re fairly easy to both explain and understand. So if you don’t know anything about these food groups, we’ll cover the basics here and you’ll virtually be an expert by the time you’re done reading.

Four food group basics

The food groups were born with the iconic food pyramid – a chart created by the United States Department of Agriculture which displays five groupings of foods and the recommended daily amount you should eat (two of the groups are combined—fruits, vegetables—so it’s still only “four” groups).

There is a sub-group, but this consists of things like sugars, fats, and “other” nutrition sources that aren’t necessarily part of the four basic groups.

According to the USDA, following the pyramid will ensure a healthy weightand healthy lifestyle. It popped up on the scene in the 1970s as a way to help busy families with meal planning and the proper nutrition. Of course, this was long before the days you could read nutrition labels on everything – the pyramid was first a guide handed out, like a pamphlet, per se.

The Four Basic Food Groups


Of course, anything dairy falls into this category – milk, cream, butter, yogurt, cheese, etc. According to the USDA’s pyramid, a person should consume three cups of relatively low-fat dairy products per day on a healthy diet.


Let’s preface this section by stating the obvious: the pyramid isn’t a bible nor is it law. You do not have to follow it; it’s solely a recommendation. We mention this due to the amount of low-carb diets out there suggesting you stay away from carbohydrates, and that’s what the grain section is all about – carbs: bread, rice, pasta, crackers, muffins, cereals, etc.

Per the pyramid, you should consume around 6 ounces of grains every day for a healthy diet.

Meats (proteins)

The pyramid places emphasis on lean proteins here. It suggests that people eat roughly 5 to 6 ounces of protein per day – pork, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, beef, chicken, etc. But ingesting fatty meats isn’t good for anyone!

Fruits and Vegetables

The recommended daily intake of fruits per the pyramid is around 2 cups, and for vegetables it is 2 ½ cups. As you can imagine, fresh, whole fruits and veggies beat out canned and dried fruits.

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