What are the main four food groups for a balanced diet

Food Groups have been used for over 100 years to provide guidance to the public on how to consume a balanced diet. The earliest nutrition guidelines which provided food groupings was provided in 1894 by Dr. Wilbur Olin Atwater.

The grouping of foods is often based on a set of foods that share similar nutritional properties or share a higher percentage of the macronutrients.

Four food groups are rarely used and not common place in current guidelines. An example of four food groups in use is the USDA publication in 1956 that was popularly known as the “Basic Four”. As with many of the guidelines a minimum number of foods was recommended from each of the main food groups.

The classic four food groups were:

  • Milk
  • Meat
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Grain Products

It’s important to note that the four food groups were a basic guideline and did not take into account other important dietary factors, such as fat, sugar and salt intake.

More current dietary guidelines, such as The Eatwell Guide and MyPlate, focus on a more balanced approach that emphasizes consuming a variety of foods from all food groups in appropriate portions.

Source Essentials of an adequate diet:facts for nutrition programs – NALDC

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