MyPlate: What Are the Five Food Groups

by | Jun 11, 2012 | Health Habits, Nutrition Support, Uncategorized

MyPlate five food groups demystified! Our article explains in simple terms, the concept of the MyPlate food groups, what its purpose is, and what each food group consists of. Read on.

When the good people at the USDA decided to simplify nutrition, they came up with a new graphic that at a glance, sought to explain what nutrition was all about. Unfortunately, most people (including professionals) initially mistook the new graphic for a new logo and those that didn’t, thought it was something to do with percentages of farm output while the rest wandered what those little colored triangles were all about. So here’s the explanation.

A balanced nutrition is one that contains food in the correct proportions from all food groups. You’re now probably wondering, what are the food groups and what are the proportions?

The new MyPlate graphic created by the USDA answers your question by visually depicting the food groups as well as the proportions

Look that the graphic closely – notice there are five items mentioned and that each of these five items are represented by different colored triangles of dissimilar sizes?

These five items are the five food groups. The differences in the sizes are meant to indicate the relative portion sizes to be served from each of these five food groups.

Some people wondered about the practicality of the visual depiction saying that people usually do not have vegetables or grains for breakfast.

The five food groups

The MyPlate graphic is not meant as a representation of every meal you eat – instead, it is a representation of the total food you eat during the day. So when you visualize the food you have eaten during the day, 30% of the food you eaten should have been veggies, 30% whole grain (whole grain is grain with outer covering of the kernel intact so flour made from whole grains is high in fiber), 15% should have been proteins i.e. meats, eggs, fish or protein rich foods, and 25% of the total food you eat should have been fruit. Apart from this, you should also have a small quantity of some dairy product be it milk or low-fat, non-sweetened yogurt.


You do not have to sit with a weighing machine each time you have a meal. The idea of a graphic is to affix in our minds the five food groups and the relative proportions of food we need to consume from each group.

Oil, sugar, salt, minerals, water

You might wonder why oils, sugars, salt, minerals or water finds no mention. The fact is, one can hardly cook food without these elements being present. So instead of complicating matters by trying to be technically complete, the people at USDA left out certain elements which they knew would anyway be part of most meals.


It of course goes without saying that you need to use common sense when shopping and cooking. For example, choose fresh fruit over canned or fruit juices. Same principle applies to veggies and other products.


Roast or bake rather than deep fry. Use oil sparingly. Our body requires oil and we cannot function without it. But the quantum of oil we need is very little. So the teaspoon of oil you consume when you eat pancakes or an omelet is sufficient to fulfill your daily requirement of oil. The same applies to a cube of sugar in your tea or coffee and the half teaspoon of salt in your salad.

How much to eat?

We also recommend you read our articles elsewhere on total calorie requirements. The total quantity of food you eat should not provide more than 2,500 calories per day otherwise the excess turns into fat.