A New Way of Looking at Food Groups

There’s good scientific evidence that we should be a lot less worried about fat in our diets and a lot more worried about sugars and refined starches. (I wrote about that science here).

Some people try to eliminate sugars altogether. And while that might be the healthy thing to do, I’m more of an everything-in-moderation kind of guy. An ice cream cone in the summer can be magical, as can hot chocolate in the winter. Personally, I wouldn’t would never want to eliminate these altogether!

I also believe that any diet that leaves you hungry is doomed to fail.

As part of my journey to be happier, healthier and more productive, I’m trying to eat healthier myself. As I learn how to do this, I’ve been tossing around the idea of re-defining the four food groups. Instead of grains, dairy, proteins, and fruits and vegetables, I’ve come up with the four new categories: Abundance, Moderation, Limited and Rare.

  • Abundance are those foods that we don’t need to restrict at all. If we’re hungry, we can eat as much as we want at any time of day. (The caveat is that we should always stop eating when we’re full and never eat too much before bed).
  • Moderation foods are those that are okay to regularly, but we need to be aware of portion size.
  • Limited are foods that are okay to eat once a day, but in small portions.
  • Rare foods should be thought of as treats. These are foods we shouldn’t eat every day.

Before I get to what foods fit into each category, a few thoughts.

First, this is a work in progress. I’m still thinking about what foods belong in each category and would love your feedback.

Second, I want this to be a framework that works for anyone who’s not on a medically-restricted diet. If you’re trying to lose weight, you might need to further limit the “moderation,” “limited” and “rare” categories, but can still eat in abundance from the first category. As always, vegetarians or vegans need to double down on legumes.

Third, the best thing about the list is how many things actually fit into the abundance category. It’s a lot! There’s no need to be hungry even if you’re trying to shed some pounds.

Finally, I’m not a dietitian. This system is based on what I’ve learned about healthy eating, but at this stage it’s just something to think about.

So with that, here’s what I’ve come up with so far for each category:

Abundance

  • All vegetables except potatoes (fresh, frozen or canned)
  • Non-sweet fruit that we think of as vegetables (avocados and tomatoes)
  • All legumes (kidney beans, chick peas, lentils, etc.)
  • All fish and seafood (no batter)
  • Eggs (boiled, poached or fried in healthy oils)
  • Water – still or sparkling
  • Healthy oils (avocado, olive, coconut)

Moderation

  • Whole grain breads, cereals, pastas and brown rice
  • All chicken or turkey (no skin / no batter)
  • Unsweetened dairy (milk, unsweetened yogurt, cheese, sour cream)
  • Tea and coffee

Limited

  • Other non-processed meats (beef, pork, lamb)
  • Potatoes
  • White breads, rice or pasta
  • Nuts
  • Fruit
  • Sweetened yogurt
  • Dark chocolate
  • Wine

Rare

  • Desserts other than fruit
  • Candy
  • Processed snacks
  • Processed meats (cold cuts, hot dogs, etc.)
  • Drinks with sugar (including fruit juice)
  • Diet drinks
  • Alcohol other than wine

As I noted, this is a work in progress, so I would love your advice and input! Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to leave your comments.

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