This site was initially developed for Workshop Houston's Summer 2012 Program as a component of the course "The Science of Nutrition".

Nutrition 101: "Food Is Fuel"

Lecture 4: Food Is Fuel

What Does A Balanced Meal Look Like?

Fruits Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the Fruit Group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed.

Vegetables Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a member of the Vegetable Group. Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed.

Grains Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is a grain product. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are examples of grain products. Grains are divided into 2 subgroups, Whole Grains and Refined Grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm.

Protein Foods All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the Protein Foods Group. Beans and peas are also part of the Vegetable Group. For more information on beans and peas, see Beans and Peas Are Unique Foods.

Select a variety of protein foods to improve nutrient intake and health benefits, including at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week. Young children need less, depending on their age and calorie needs. The advice to consume seafood does not apply to vegetarians. Vegetarian options in the Protein Foods Group include beans and peas, processed soy products, and nuts and seeds. Meat and poultry choices should be lean or low-fat.

Dairy All fluid milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Most Dairy Group choices should be fat-free or low-fat. Foods made from milk that retain their calcium content are part of the group.

Oils Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like the vegetable oils used in cooking. Oils come from many different plants and from fish. Oils are NOT a food group, but they provide essential nutrients. Therefore, oils are included in USDA food patterns.

Age and gender
Estimated calories for those who are not physically active

Total daily calorie needs*
Daily limit for empty calories
Children 2-3 yrs
1000 cals
Children 4-8 yrs
1200-1400 cals
Girls 9-13 yrs
1600 cals
Boys 9-13 yrs
1800 cals
Girls 14-18 yrs
1800 cals
Boys 14-18 yrs
2200 cals
Females 19-30 yrs
2000 cals
Males 19-30 yrs
2400 cals
Females 31-50 yrs
1800 cals
Males 31-50 yrs
2200 cals
Females 51+ yrs
1600 cals
Males 51+ yrs
2000 cals
Ten Tips to A Great Plate:
1)  Balance calories by eating enough to sustain daily activities
2)  Enjoy your food, but eat less of it
3)  Avoid oversized portions of food
4)  Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy
5)  Make half your plate fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors
6)  Switch to low-fat dairy
7)  Make at least half your grains whole grains
8)  Cut back on foods that have extra fat, added sugar, and excess sodium
9)  Compare sodium labels and opt for low-sodium choices
10) Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks

Reading Assignment: The 76 Dangers of Sugar to Your Health, pages 4-5


Heather Hedrick Fink, L. A. (2009). Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition. Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Choose MyPlate Healthy Eating Tips

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