Food Groups & Classifications

Education and knowledge about what one’s own body needs is crucial for understanding how to create balanced meals. Below is an explanation of each food group. The information gathered here is gotten from choosemyplate.gov from the United States Department of Agriculture and also http://www.Lancastergeneral.org that provides nutritional information for teenagers about their health. In case you would like further links and information, please see the end of this blog.

There are 6 main food groups/categories:

  1. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, nicknamed Carbs, are essential to the body because they provide energy. While many diets hope to eliminate carbs, a human body gets 60% of its energy from carbohydrates, so cutting out this entire food group is not good! Teenage girls should receive about 3-5 oz of grains a day.

While carbohydrates are important for the body, not all carbs are made equal. They can be broken down into two sub-levels: Complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates.

Simple Carbohydrates are made of sugar. Since they are formulated of sugar, they often times lack enough energy to sustain the body for long periods of time. Consumption of sugary carbohydrates does not guarantee good energy. Simple carbohydrates are often found in white bread, bagels, pancakes, waffles, and pastries.

Complex Carbohydrates provide the energy that will last longer and will keep the stomach fuller than simple carbs will. Complex carbohydrates can be found in whole wheat breads and pasta.

Tip: To start receiving better carbohydrates, switch out white breads for whole grain breads. If you love to eat pasta, buy pasta that is made of whole-wheat.

Fun Fact: Complex carbs are known to help the brain think clearer. Eating whole wheat bread, whole wheat waffles, or whole wheat bagels for breakfast before a test may help you think better!

 

2. Protein 

Protein is essential for teenagers to consume because it helps build and repair muscles. Protein contains animo acids that help cells produce energy and hormones within the body. Teenage girls between the ages of 13-18 should get 5 oz of protein a day. Protein can be found in meat, nuts, and beans.

Tip: If you are vegetarian, you can still get protein through eating chickpeas, beans, and nuts.

Fun Fact: Shape magazine reported that study author Dagfinn Aune found eating a handful of nuts a day can cut your risk from dying of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer by 50% because nuts reduce oxidative DNA damage and lowers blood cholesterol.

 

3. Fruits and Vegetables

Both fruits and vegetables are important in a teenage girl’s diet. Fruits provides the body with sugar, while vegetables are often rich in vitamins and minerals. A teenage girl should receive 1 1/2 cups of fruits a day. A teenage girl should receive 2 – 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day.

Examples of fruits can be seen through apples, bananas, oranges, kiwi, blueberries, etc.

Vegetables include lettuce, brocoli, carrots, tomatos, etc.

Tip: Make sure to consume fruit- not fruit juices. Often times, fruit juices contain a lot of added sugar.

Fun Fact: When consuming vegetables, the wider variety of color, the better! Eating different types of vegetables will provide your body with nutrients.

 

4. Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins help release nutrients inside the body more efficiently into the bloodstream. The best way to receive the different types of vitamins is through a balanced diet, which means incorporating every food group into your meal. Below is a list of the vitamins and what they do for the body.

Vitamin A: Helps create healthy skin, hair, and bones

Vitamin B: Helps heart, muscle, and nervous system

Vitamin C: Heals wounds in body and also helps teeth, gum, and brain function

Vitamin D: Absorbs calcium and is critical for bone development

Vitamin E: Keeps nervous system and immune systems working properly

Vitamin K: Aids blood clotting to heal wounds

There are two specific minerals that teenagers should receive during their youth. It is important to get enough of these two every day in order to ensure healthy bone development and prevent decay of bones in older age.

Iron: Vital for making blood cells. Having enough iron everyday is especially important for girls because they lose blood during menstruation. Iron can be obtained through vegetables. A girl should receive about 18 milligrams of iron a day.

Calcium: Allows for proper bone development and keeps muscles strong as well as teeth.  Calcium can be consumed through milk, cheese, yogurt, and dairy products. Girls should get about 1 cup of milk a day.

 

5. Fats

Fat keeps body parts well oiled and pads vital organs to keep them protected. There are several different types of fats. Girls should get about 5 teaspoons of oils (which contain fat) a day.

Monounsaturated fat: Lowers blood cholesterol and raises good cholesterol

Polyunsaturated fat: Protects heart and reduces risk of cancer

Saturated Fat: Often found in animal products and oils. While it is good to have some saturated fat, having too much may result in blocked arteries that cause heart attacks.

Trans fat: Fatty acids that are formed during a process called hydrogenation: this is what manufacturers use to make foods last long on shelves. Trans fat should be avoided.

Tip: To get healthy fats, try eating fish, nuts, seeds, and cooking oil. Salad dressing contains lots of good oils, but be make sure to check the serving size to get the recommended amount (found often in back of bottle).

 

6. Water

Some people do not include water as another food group, however, water is so important to the body that most people do not drink enough of it. A teenage girl should drink about 64 oz of water a day.

Tip: Keep a refillable and recyclable water next to you during the day. You’ll drink more water and also help the environment by avoiding plastic bottles.

Fun Fact: Did you know water makes up 65% of the teenage body?

 

With more knowledge about each food group, you can make better eating choices. While we have included the recommended amount of each food group each day, making sure to have a balanced diet will ensure that you get the needed amount and nutrients. Following the choosemyplate.gov photo (see link: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate) of a what a meal should look like gives a great example of what your meals should look like.

To get more information, feel free to check out the following links:

  • choosemyplate.gov
  • girlshealth.gov

 

Please let us know if this blog helped you out or if there is any additional information you would like to know about.

Have a wonderful day!

(Photo credits: https://www.forksoverknives.com/three-food-groups-healthy-eating/)

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