Using MyPlate food groups

How can I best balance my energy expenditure with obtaining enough nutrients from grains? For context I’m currently moderating my weight by averaging jogging 15 km a day but only eating ~ 2,100 kj a day worth of grains (1500 kj from whole wheat or whole oats as cereal, 600 kj from a wholemeal wrap). Fruit, veg, meat & dairy servings all seem to be in check. I’m told I should be getting around 3,000 kj a day from grains, but I’m not sure if this is just including a fudge factor in advice to the general public to account for the expectation that much of that will be from refined sources.

Kudos on your recognition of the contribution of whole grains to good nutrition. In general, most people in the US eat enough total grain foods but tend to miss the mark when it comes to whole grains.

Whole grains are foods made from grains like rice, oats, wheat, and barley that contain the whole grain kernel including the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grain food examples include brown rice, oatmeal, and whole-wheat flour. Refined grain foods have the bran and germ portions the grain seed removed before they are used in food products, examples being white flour and white rice.

Though the caloric value of whole grains is not significantly different than the caloric value of refined grains, whole grains are important to a healthy lifestyle because they contain more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients than their refined grain counterparts. For more information on grains, visit myplate.gov/eat-healthy/grains.

Because a specific volume or caloric recommendation for the amount of grain foods you should aim to eat each day depends on your age, weight, sex, height, and physical activity level, guidelines for the general population do tend to be generalized.

Maintaining a healthy weight and achieving caloric balance with exercise are excellent health goals. To estimate the right amount of grains for your lifestyle, check out the MyPlate Plan.  You can read more about caloric balance in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.

I am vegan, so I do not eat dairy. What foods can I eat that are included as part of the Dairy Group?

Fortified soy-based dairy alternatives like soy milk and soy yogurt, which have added calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D, are included as part of the Dairy Group because they are nutritionally similar to their dairy-based counterparts.

Other plant-based milk alternatives such as hemp, cashew, almond, oat, rice, or coconut may be calcium-fortified, but are not included as part of the Dairy Group because their nutrition profile is not like dairy milk or fortified soy milk.

If you are looking for additional sources of calcium that are not included in the Dairy Group, consider calcium-fortified juices, tofu made with calcium sulfate, tahini, and some leafy greens, such as collard and turnip greens, spinach, kale, and bok choy which all provide some calcium. It should be noted that the amount of calcium that you can absorb from these foods does vary.

Are beans, such as kidney beans, in the Vegetable Group or Protein Foods Group? How do I count them?

Beans, peas, and lentils are unique foods because they belong to two food groups. They are part of the Protein Foods Group, and part of the Vegetable Group.

People who regularly eat meat, poultry, and seafood generally count beans, peas, and lentils in the Vegetable Group. People who do not eat meat or seldom eat meat, poultry, or seafood count some of the beans, peas, and lentils they eat in the Protein Foods Group. Visit www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/protein-foods/beans-and-peas for an example of how you can count beans, peas, and lentils.

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