This article is the basis of many of our future articles, as it pulls the foods we eat into different groups. The picture to the right, from Choose My Plate, illustrates each food group in proportions that the USDA recommends. However, this picture does neglect to include the "fats and oils" category that was present on the old Food Pyramid. The food groups are;
- Fruits- fresh, canned, frozen, or juiced
- Vegetables- fresh, canned, frozen, or juiced
- Grains- bread, rice, pasta, cereal, popcorn, etc.
- Protein- beans, meat, nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, etc.
- Dairy- milk, soy dairy-free products, cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, etc.
- Fats and Oils- cooking oil, fats, treats, butter, etc.
When you're eating a meal, it is important to include foods from multiple food groups to increase the nutritional value of the meal, and so the meal will keep you satisfied longer. Here's a guide on how to incorporate foods from each group into your diet.
- If you need to eat more Fruits, you can add an apple, banana, or orange at breakfast, or eat one at lunch. Sliced/ washed berries and whipped cream is a great healthy dessert. Mix all your favorite fruits together in a fruit salad, or a smoothie. Or, juice them for breakfast.
- Vegetables can be added to smoothies and juices, too- or you can steam, boil, roast, grill, or sautee them. Try cherry tomatoes and baby carrots with some light salad dressing as a snack, have salad with dinner, or stick lettuce leaves into your sandwiches. For a snack, roll deli meats and mustard into big lettuce pieces, broken off of hearts of romaine.
- Grains are easy to include in your diet- your morning cereal, toast, bagel, pancakes, french toast, or oatmeal, the bread from your sandwich at lunch, crackers, pasta or rice at dinner, etc. But, it is important to include some whole grains. Once you're used to whole wheat bread and other whole wheat or multigrain products, you'll see that they have more flavor.
- Protein makes people think of meat and fish, but other options -like eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds- are great sources, too. Try to eat a variety.
- Dairy is especially important for teenage girls. Eat a yogurt (sprinkle granola on top for breakfast and add some cut up fruit- its delicious) or drink a glass of milk at breakfast and/or lunch, and maybe have some frozen yogurt after dinner.
- Fats and Oils add flavor, but it is better to use healthier fats, such as olive oil, over unhealthy fats, such as butter, when possible.
Often, we'll eat a slice of lasagna, a piece of pizza, a salad with protein, or a bowl of soup with protein, vegetables, dairy, or other food groups all in one. These count towards our daily quota, too. You can also "hide" foods within others. For example, you could make bread with bananas, apples, carrots, or zucchini. You can make apple and carrot juice. You could add greens to your smoothie.
- Breakfast is a great time to get in whole grains, dairy, protein, and fruit. For example, a bowl of cereal with berries and milk. Yogurt with fruit and granola. Toast with peanut butter, a glass of milk, and an apple. Apple slices, peanut butter, and a muffin. Eggs with cheese and vegetables. A glass of juice. A smoothie. Try protein powder, too. Mix it with milk for a shake.
- Lunch is great for fitting in more fruits, proteins, dairy, and whole grains, as well as vegetables and fats/oils. You can pack any leftovers from home in a plastic container or thermos, or you can make a sandwich or salad. Guacamole, mayo, and other condiments can add fat to a sandwich, which can be stuffed with vegetables, meats, and cheese. A salad can incorporate many food groups- vegetables, oils, proteins (beans, hard boiled eggs, meat), and dairy (cheese). We strongly suggest packing a lunch- don't buy at school. You'll have more control, save money, and make healthier choices.
- Dinner is the time to fit in anything you need to knock off your list. Pile your plate with whatever you skimped on that day, and drink water, milk, or juice. Need to eat more fruit? Pick any fruits you like and enjoy those for dessert. For some dairy, yogurts and puddings are great- but watch the sugar.
- Snacks are extremely important to keep you going throughout your day. You don't need to eat "snack foods" like chips, candy, or granola bars- you can just eat mini meals. For example, you could have half a sandwich, a serving of soup, leftover roasted chicken and vegetables- anything! Just lower your serving size. Keep a healthy snack in your bag for those times when you don't pack enough for lunch, don't have time for breakfast, or are stuck after school for awhile.
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Just eat the foods your family prepares in sensible portions. For a quick dinner, a salad, a sandwich, soup, pasta with meatballs, or a healthy frozen dinner will do.
A Note From TwoTeenChefs:
We are not qualified nutritionists or dieticians. We are teenage girls. Our advice cannot replace the opinion of your physician, pediatrician, nutritionist, personal trainer, coaches, teachers, or parents. Please use our advice as a guideline. In addition, this blog is not all about nutrition and health. We will experiment in the kitchen, create recipes, test recipes, and more. However, the nutritional value of the food you eat is very important. This "disclaimer" applies to any and all future posts. Thanks for reading!
Two Teen Chefs