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The ChooseMyPlate food guide

Image of plate with healthy portions.

Do you remember the food pyramid? Well, experts wanted an easier way to show what you should eat. So they served up a plate! Take a look at the picture. It's pretty easy to understand. For example, you can see that fruits and veggies should be half your meal. (If that seems hard for each meal, just aim to make them around half your food each day). You can use our chart below to learn how much to eat from each group, what foods are in each group, and more.


Inside each food group arrow top

It can be hard to know what to eat to be healthy. Our chart offers helpful info, like how much you should eat from each group. The amounts you should eat depend on how old you are and how active you are. The amounts we list are for girls 9 to 18 who get less than 30 minutes of physical activity each day. More active girls may be able to eat more, so get a plan that is just right for you at ChooseMyPlate.gov.

And for the best health, remember to mix up your choices within each group. (An apple a day is great, but toss in some fruit salad, too!)


Grains
What are they?Grains include wheat, rice, oats, and barley. Foods made from grains are called grain products. These include bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, crackers, and grits.
How much?Eat 5 ounces of grains if you're a girl 9 to 13 years old (or 6 ounces if you're 14 to 18 years old). Some examples of an ounce of grains include: half an English muffin, a slice of bread, a package of instant oatmeal, or a quarter of a large bagel. Learn more about what counts as an ounce of grains.
What else do I need to know?"Whole grains" are foods like whole wheat bread, brown rice, cornmeal, and oatmeal. "Refined grains" are foods like white flour and white rice. Refined grains have had some of the grain — as well as some of the great nutrients — removed. When choosing grains, remember this tip: Make half your grains whole.
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Vegetables
What are they?

There are five types of vegetables. They are:

  • Dark green, like spinach, broccoli, kale, and romaine lettuce
  • Red and orange, like carrots, tomatoes, red peppers, and sweet potatoes
  • Beans and peas, like split peas and pinto beans
  • Starchy, like potatoes, green peas, and corn
  • Other, like celery, iceberg lettuce, green beans, green pepper and onions
How much?You should eat 2 cups of vegetables each day if you're 9 to 13 years old (or 2½ cups if you're 14 to 18). How much is a cup? It's the size of a baseball. Also, around 12 baby carrots counts as one cup, and so does a large sweet potato. See more examples of what equals a cup of veggies.
What else do I need to know?Vary your veggies for the best health benefits. It's great to add dark- green, red, and orange veggies as well as beans and peas.
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Fruits
What are they?Fruits come fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. There are many types of fruits, including berries, melons, and citrus fruits like grapefruit.
How much?You should eat 1½ cups of fruit each day. One cup is a small apple, a large banana, around 30 grapes, an 8-ounce juice box, or sliced fruit that's about the size of a computer mouse. See more examples of what equals a cup of fruit.
What else do I need to know?If you're drinking juice, look for the kind that says 100% fruit juice. Try to pick fruit over fruit juice. Try to eat a variety of fruits. And if you're eating canned fruit, look for the kind packed in juice and not in syrup.
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Dairy
What is it?This group also sometimes is called dairy and includes milk and many products made from milk, such as cheese and yogurt. (It also includes soymilk.) Things that are made from milk but that are mostly fat, like cream cheese or butter, are in the fats category.
How much?You should get 3 cups from the dairy category. One cup is a small container of milk (half a pint or 8 ounces). It's also an 8-ounce container of yogurt, but most yogurt containers are smaller than that. And it's 2 cups of cottage cheese or 2 slices of hard cheese. Learn what else counts as a cup.
What else do I need to know?Most of your dairy choices should be fat-free or low-fat, like fat-free yogurt or low-fat milk. It's a good idea to choose milk or yogurt more often than cheese.
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Protein
What is it?This group includes all foods made from red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) and poultry (chicken or turkey). It also includes fish, eggs, beans and peas, nuts, and seeds. (Beans and peas, such as kidney beans and split peas, can count as either a vegetable or a protein food.)
How much?You should eat 5 ounces from this group each day. One ounce equals three thin slices of ham, about three shrimp, six cashews, or ¼ cup of beans (which is about half the size of a computer mouse). A small chicken breast, which is around the size of a deck of cards, equals about 3 ounces. You can learn more about protein servings.
What else do I need to know?Try to eat a variety of different protein foods, including fish, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, unsalted nuts and seeds. Also, try to eat some fish and shellfish in place of some meat. When you choose meat and poultry, look for cuts that are lean or low-fat. And cut off skin and any fat you can see.
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What about calories? arrow top

"Calories" basically mean the amount of energy you get from food. How many calories you should eat depends on how old you are and how much you weigh. It also depends on how many calories you "burn" by being active. If you walk about 2 miles or do something similar to that each day, you are considered active a moderate (medium) amount. Girls who are active a moderate amountcan use this information as a guide:

  • If you are 9 to 13 years old, you need 1,600 to 2,000 calories each day.
  • If you are 14 to 18 years old, you need around 2,000 calories each day.

Remember that fat has a lot more calories per gram (a gram is a way of measuring fats, carbohydrates, and proteins) than carbs and proteins. So, if you are eating too many calories, try to replace some fat with foods like low-fat dairy, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. And watch out for added sugars, which can add a lot of calories but little nutrition.

You can find out exactly how much you should eat based on your age height, weight, and activity level at ChooseMyPlate.gov. You can make a personal food plan that's right for you. And you can check out our Fitness section for more info on being active.


 

 

Content last reviewed November 05, 2013
Page last updated January 14, 2014

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