Five Food Groups?

Funny, I thought there were three:  carbohydrates, proteins and fats.  Apparently, I was wrong.  

According to the USDA, there are five: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy.  

And we should be mostly eating these foods, and avoiding empty calories, which, as per their site include “calories from solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories.”

I half agree.  Yes, on the added sugars, without a doubt.

But the ‘solid fats’?  Let’s read on.

Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, beef fat, and shortening. Some solid fats are found naturally in foods. They can also be added when foods are processed by food companies or when they are prepared.

Solid fats and added sugars can make a food or beverage more appealing, but they also can add a lot of calories.”

Ok; still on board with the sugars but the solid fats?  

No, not so much.  

Grass fed beef fat, coconut oil, and even grass-fed butter for those who follow a primal approach would then be swept into this broad category of foods to avoid along with corn syrup and hydrogenated shortening because they add a lot of calories?

So what’s their answer? 

Many ‘foods’  that provide the most empty calories for Americans can be found in forms with less or no solid fat or added sugars. For example, low-fat cheese and low-fat hot dogs can be purchased. You can choose water, milk, or sugar-free soda instead of drinks with sugar. Check that the calories in these products are less than in the regular product.”

Ah!  Perfect. So all we have to do is go for low-fat hot fogs and sugar free soda and we’re back on the path to optimal health.

This the message we’re receiving from the USDA.

It’s such a mixed message.  

Their website tells us to check out campaigns like the “Let’s Move Initiative” and “Know Your Farmer Know Your Food”, and we see pictures of brightly colored veggies and fruit, all of which are on the right track, but then to group ‘fats that are solid at room temperature and are therefore high in calories and to be avoided’ with white sugar and products containing it really misses the boat.

While I agree that we shouldn’t be eating Crisco on a daily basis (or ever, actually), putting coconut oil and beef fat under a heading with white sugar is not only completely inaccurate, it makes all the other information provided by the source, which may be right (or at least, half right), lose credibility.

Reality check: there are, indeed three macro nutrient groups that we should be eating each and every day:  

  • Carbohydrates (fresh, local vegetables and some fruit, depending on how active you are and what you’re eating it with.. and when, with regard to exercise)
  • Fats (focusing on avocado, olive oil, some coconut oil and raw nuts (mostly walnuts, Brazils and macadamias in moderation) as well as the rich Omega 3s we get from wild salmon and black cod, for example
  • Proteins (from wild or naturally raised animals, who ate real food, too)

If you’re eating something that you can’t honestly fit into one of the three categories above, you’re eating something that’s probably not as healthy of a choice.

Cut the grains, the sugar, the soy…up the veggies and the good fats with proteins.   

It truly is that simple.