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Food guide plate

By following the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food guide, called MyPlate, you can make healthier food choices. The new guide encourages you to eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. Using the guide, you can learn what type of food you should eat and how much you should eat. You also learn why and how much you should exercise.



There are 5 major food groups that make up a healthy diet:

  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Dairy
  • Protein foods

You should eat foods from each group every day. How much food you should eat from each group depends on your age, gender, and how active you are.

MyPlate makes specific recommendations for each type of food group.

Grains: Make at Least Half of Your Grains Whole Grains

  • Whole grains contain the entire grain. Processed grains have had the bran and germ removed.
  • Foods with whole grains have more fiber than food made with processed grains.
  • Examples of whole grains are whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, and cornmeal.
  • Examples of processed grains are white flour, white bread, and white rice.

Most children and adults should eat about 5 to 8 servings of grains a day (also called "ounce equivalents"). Children age 8 and younger need about 3 to 5 servings. At least half those servings should be whole grain. An example of one serving of grains includes:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 cup of cereal
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 5 whole-wheat crackers
  • 1/3 cup cooked pasta

Eating whole grains can help improve your health:

  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Helps you lose extra weight
  • Helps you have regular bowel movements

Ways to eat more whole grains:

  • Eat brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Use whole-grain pasta instead of regular pasta.
  • Replace part of white flour with wheat flour in recipes.
  • Replace white bread with whole-wheat bread.

Vegetables: Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables

  • Vegetables can be raw, fresh, cooked, canned, frozen, canned, dried, or dehydrated.
  • Beans and peas can be counted either as a vegetable or a lean protein.

Most children and adults should eat between 2 and 3 cups of vegetables a day. Children age 8 need about 1 to 1 1/2 cups. Examples of a cup include:

  • Large ear of corn
  • Three 5-inch broccoli spears
  • 2 cups of raw, leafy greens
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 cup 100% vegetable juice (carrot, tomato)

Eating vegetables can help improve your health:

  • Lowers your risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes
  • Helps protect you against some cancers
  • Helps lower blood pressure
  • Reduces the risk of kidney stones
  • Helps reduce bone loss

Ways to eat more vegetables:

  • Keep plenty of frozen vegetables handy in your freezer.
  • Buy pre-washed salad and pre-chopped veggies to cut down on prep time.
  • Add veggies to soups and stews.
  • Add vegetables to spaghetti sauces.
  • Try veggie stir-fries.

Fruits: Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables

  • Fruits can be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried.

Most adults need 1 1/2 -2 cups of fruit a day. Children age 8 and younger need about 1 to 1 1/2 cups. Examples of a cup include:

  • 1/2 large apple
  • 8 large strawberries
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1 cup 100% fruit juice (orange, apple, grapefruit)

Eating fruit can help improve your health:

  • Lowers your risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes
  • Helps protect you against some cancers
  • Helps lower blood pressure
  • Reduces the risk of kidney stones
  • Helps reduce bone loss

Ways to eat more fruit:

  • Put out a fruit bowl and keep it full of fruit.
  • Stock up on dried, frozen, or canned fruit, so you always have it available. Choose no-sugar-added canned fruit.
  • Buy pre-cut fruit in packages to cut down on prep time.
  • Try meat dishes with fruit, such as pork with apricots, lamb with figs, or chicken with mango.
  • Grill peaches, apples, or other firm fruit on the grill for a healthy, tasty dessert.

Protein Foods: Choose Lean Proteins

  • Protein foods include meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds. Beans and peas are also part of the vegetable group.
  • Choose meats that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Most adults need 5 to 6 1/2 servings of protein a day (also called "ounce equivalents"). Children age 8 and younger need about 2 to 4 servings.
  • An example of a day's serving of protein for adults includes 1 small chicken breast, 1 egg, and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
  • Include 8 ounces of cooked seafood a week.

Eating lean protein can help improve your health:

  • Keeps your cholesterol levels healthy.
  • Seafood high in omega-3 fats, such as salmon, sardines, or trout, can help prevent heart disease.
  • Peanuts and other nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, when eaten as part of a healthy diet, can help lower the risk of heart disease.

Ways to include more lean protein in your diet:

  • Choose lean cuts of beef, which include sirloin, tenderloin, round, chuck, and shoulder or arm roasts and steaks.
  • Choose lean pork, which include tenderloin, loin, ham, and Canadian bacon.
  • Choose lean lamb, which includes tenderloin, chops, and leg.
  • Buy skinless chicken or turkey, or take the skin off.
  • Grill, roast, poach, or broil meats, poultry, and seafood instead of frying.
  • Trim all visible fat and drain off any fat when cooking.
  • Substitute peas, beans, or soy in place of meat at least once a week. Try bean chili, pea or bean soup, stir-fried tofu, rice and beans, or veggie burgers.

Oils: Eat Small Amounts of Heart-Healthy Oils

  • Oils are not a food group. However, they provide important nutrients and should be part of a healthy diet.
  • Fats such as butter and shortening are solid at room temperature. They contain high levels of saturated fats or trans fats. Eating a lot of these fats can increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Oils are liquid at room temperature. They contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These types of fats are generally good for your heart.
  • Children and adults should get about 5 to 7 teaspoons of oil a day. Children age 8 and younger need about 3 to 4 teaspoons a day.
  • Choose oils such as olive, canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean, and corn oils.
  • Some foods are also high in healthy oils. They include avocados, some fish, olives, and nuts.

Weight Management and Physical Activity

MyPlate also provides information about how to lose excess weight:

  • You can use the online SuperTracker to learn what you currently eat and drink. By writing down what you eat and drink every day, you can see where you can make better choices.
  • You can use the Daily Food Plan to learn what to eat and drink. You just enter your height, weight, and age to get a personalized eating plan.
  • Use the SuperTracker to track your daily activity and food you eat, plus your weight.

You also learn how to make better choices, such as:

  • Eating the right amount of calories to keep you at a healthy weight
  • Eating less and avoiding big portions
  • Eating fewer foods with empty calories. These are foods high in sugar or fat.
  • Eating a balance of healthy foods from all 5 food groups
  • Making better choices when eating out at restaurants
  • Cooking at home more often, where you can control what goes into the foods you eat
  • Exercising 150 minutes a week
  • Decreasing your screen time in front of the TV or computer
  • Getting tips for increasing your activity level


Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2010. United States Department of Agriculture. Accessed October 2, 2013.

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Review Date: 10/2/2013
Reviewed By: Kristina Sandoval, President of the Colorado School Nutrition Association, Colorado Springs, CO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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