What food groups portion sizes should I be eating in order to stay healthy?

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Answered by: Aidan, An Expert in the Choose the Right Foods Category
One important factor to bear in mind when taking advice on healthy eating is that everyones’ bodies, routines, hobbies and habits affect what their “ideal” diet should be. For instance, a Type-A diabetic who does barely any exercise and works at a desk job will require a significantly different eating plan to a muscular bodybuilder. However, there are general rules of thumb for food groups and portion sizes which act as a basis for everyone, a foundation which you can amend to your specific situation.

The first thing you need to know is the food groups themselves, the number of portions you need for each and the percentage of which these portions should make up your overall diet. These are:

Group A: Bread, potatoes and other cereals, 5-11 portions (34%)

Group B: Fruit and vegetables, 5 portions (33%)

Group C: Dairy foods, 2-3 portions (15%)

Group D: Protein-rich foods, 2-3 portions (12%)

Group E: Essential oils, 1-3 portions (7%)

It is worth mentioning that these food groups are not officially labeled under the ‘Group A to E’ classifications above; I’ve just added them in for added convenience later on.

So the list above is your basic spreadsheet information. However, it is not useful unless you understand what one portion constitutes for each food group. Now naturally this is not as straightforward as simply one piece of ‘x’ food equals one portion, otherwise we’d be in a situation whereby a grape is measured on the same scale as a pineapple. The way we actually measure portions is a combination of the size of the food, its density and its nutrient mix. Here are some examples of what one portion constitutes for each food group to give you an idea of what to aim for:

Group A: One slice of bread, large pitta, medium boiled potato, large parsnip; two heaped tablespoons of uncooked pasta, rice, noodles; three crackers

Group B: One apple, pear, peach, orange or banana; one glass of fruit juice; two carrots; 10 brussels sprouts; 200 grams of tinned fruit

Group C: One small pot of yoghurt; 40 grams of hard cheese, for instance Cheddar; 100 grams of low fat, soft cheese; 200 millilitres of milk

Group D: One small meat chop; three heaped tablespoons of cooked beans, lentils, peas; 50 grams of nuts seeds, red meat; 75 grams of chicken; 150 grams of white fish; 210 grams of chickpeas

Group E: One heaped tablespoon of nuts, seeds, nut oil, seed oil; 85g of oily fish, for instance mackerel

If you stick to these simple mathematical figures for food groups portion sizes - and make allowances for any exceptional health conditions you have or exercise patterns you follow - then you will maintain a healthy body. However, if you are striving for nutritional perfection or simply want to learn the specifics, then bear in mind that the specifications as to what you should eat can get ever more precise the further you look into them. To give you an idea of this, here are a few examples of how you can break up your portion sizes for different food groups:

Group A: Although the minimum portion size for people without specific conditions or exercise routines is five per day, anyone living an active lifestyle should raise that bar to at very least seven portions per day.

Group B: Within your five per day minimum for fruit and vegetables, you should aim to include one orange or yellow food (for instance mangos, carrots); one red food (for instance watermelon, tomatoes); one berry or citrus fruit (for instance strawberries); and one dark, green vegetable (for instance broccoli, spinach). Also aim to ensure that you eat at least three vegetables portions per day.

Group C: One portion of preferably low fat cheese per day is a good target to aim for. However, if you prefer to opt for full fat cheese, then make sure you don’t exceed two portions per day.

Group D: Aim to secure at least 50% of your protein portions from non-meat foods, for instance baked beans, chickpeas, lentils and nuts. When eating meat, buy lean, well-trimmed cuts and focus on cooking methods that use less fatty oils, for instance dry frying, grilling and poaching.

Group E: When storing nuts, seed and oils, make sure you put them in dark, cool places as exposure to too much light and heat can reduce their nutritional value.

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