USDA Food Guide and MyPyramid (Lesson 2 Part C)

Elizabeth S. Reames, Charles, Sharman J.

Food Guide Lesson

Oils and Discretionary Calorie Allowance


These should be eaten sparingly - not too much each day! Some fats, oils and sweets are added to foods before eating, such as salad dressing, mayonnaise, margarine and butter and table sugar. Because you add these yourself, it is easier to eat less by not adding them or adding small amounts. There are hidden fats and sugars in many foods, however, so it is important to read Nutrition Facts labels and know where to look for hidden fats and sugars.


Fats and Oils

A small amount of fat is important for health, but most of us eat too much fat. Eating too much fat is a risk factor of heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. Eating too much fat can lead to obesity. Being overweight can lead to high blood pressure and is a risk factor of diabetes. You should limit your overall fat intake to 20 percen to 35 percent of your calories and saturated fats to less than 10 percent. If you need about 2000 calories a day, your total fat intake can be about 33 – 77 grams of fat, with 20 - 33 grams of this amount being saturated fat. You can learn to read labels to figure out the grams of fat in foods. To lower your fat intake, learn to recognize foods and ingredients that are high in fat and beware of foods with a lot of hidden fat.


High-Fat Foods

Foods High in Hidden Fats



Vegetable oils

Cream/sour cream

Whole milk

Ice cream




Visible fats on meats


Cream sauces

Most fast-food meals

Potato chips

Regular popcorn

Fried foods

Pastries, doughnuts

Brownies, most cookies

Peanut butter

Peanuts, pecans, other nuts

Chocolate candy

Avocados and olives

Hot dogs, sausage, lunch meat

Frozen pot pies

Easy ways to Lower Fat
  • Bake or broil instead of fry.
  • Choose low-fat or skim milk and other low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
  • Choose lean meats, poultry and fish.
  • Trim off all visible fat and remove skin from poultry before eating.
  • Chill soups, broths and gravies and remove hardened fat.
  • Get most of your calories from whole-grain and enriched breads and cereals, rice, pasta, dried beans and peas, fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose margarines that have liquid oil listed as the first ingredient.
  • Limit your intake of hidden fats.
  • Change your recipes; decrease fat by at least one-half.
  • Substitute applesauce for shortening in baking.


Sucrose is the type of sugar found in table sugar, raw sugar (unrefined sugar), powdered sugar and brown sugar (table sugar colored with molasses). Other forms of sugar include honey, molasses, corn syrup or high-fructose syrup. Sugars supply calories, but little else nutritionally.

Many processed foods contain sugar. Look at the list of ingredients on the label. Ingredients are listed in order by weight - from most to least. Look for the words that end in ose such as sucrose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, lactose and glucose. Also, many foods contain corn syrup and liquid sugar. If one of these sugars is listed as one of the first three ingredients, or if several sugars are listed on the label, the product is probably high in sugar.


The average American eats more than 40 pounds of sugar and sweets a year, not counting soft drinks. Sugar consumption per person has increased almost 1 pound per year each year since 1985. Complex carbohydrates should be the biggest part of our diet. The best sources of complex carbohydrates are starchy foods such as breads, potatoes, rice and spaghetti. These foods provide other important nutrients in addition to carbohydrates. Sugars and sweets provide carbohydrates and fill you up without providing essential vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Sweets should be used for special treats, not as a major source of carbohydrates.


The USDA Food Guide allows for 8 teaspoons of added sugar daily based on a 2,000-calorie eating plan. According to the DASH Eating Plan, 5 tablespoons of added sugar a week is allowed. One tablespoon of added sugar is the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of jelly or jam, ½ ounce jelly beans or 8 ounces lemonade.


Sugar Myths

1. Sugar Causes Hyperactivity

Research has proved that this isn't true, although many people believe it is. If a child is overexcited, it may be because of the situation (a birthday party, being out of school or a holiday such as Halloween) and not because of the sweets that go along with it.


2. Sugar Causes Diabetes

This isn't true either! A person gets diabetes because of genetics (if a relative had it), being overweight or age, but not because of sugar intake. When a person has diabetes, the body can't use sugar properly. These people must maintain a well- balanced diet that includes some sugar but many other nutrients to keep their bodies healthy.


Sample Food Guide Menu Plan (based on 2,000 calories)



1 fruit – 1 medium piece of fruit

1 grain, 1milk - 1 ounce whole-grain cereal with 1 cup low-fat milk

1 bread, 1/2 meat - 1 slice whole-wheat toast with 2 tablespoons peanut butter

Morning Snack

1/2 milk - 1 slice cheese

1 fruit – ½ cup apple juice


1 meat, 2 grains, 1 fat - hamburger

1 vegetable, 1 fat - tossed salad with light dressing

1 milk - 1 cup low-fat or skim milk

1 fruit – ½ cup seasonal fruit


Afternoon Snack

1 vegetable – 1 cup carrots



1 meat – 2 ounces baked, skinless chicken

2 grains - 1 cup brown rice

1 grain - 1 slice bread or cornbread

1 fat - 1 teaspoon margarine

1 vegetable - 1 cup cooked greens

1 vegetable - 1/2 cup carrot sticks

1 vegetable and 1 fat – tossed salad with light dressing


Night Snack

1/2 milk – ½ cup frozen low-fat chocolate yogurt


Total Food Group Servings:

Grains – 6 equivalents

Vegetable - 5 servings

Fruit - 4 servings

Meat – 5 ½ equivalents

Milk - 3 cups

Fat - 4 servings


Eating On The Go

There's no great harm in eating foods that are high in fat, sugar or sodium and low in nutrients once in a while. Many foods eaten on the go, however, are in that category. It's not uncommon for as many as half of the day's diet to be foods eaten on the go. Look for foods that offer moderate-to-high levels of vitamins, minerals or fiber. To do this, try to find foods that will help you meet the USDA Food Guide’s recommended number of servings from the food groups. Look for foods that are moderate to low in fat, sugar and sodium.


Here are some tips to help you make better on-the-go choices:

  • Look in the refrigerator cases for juices, low-fat milk and yogurt.
  • Substitute pretzels for chips.
  • Buy easy-open cans of tuna or sardines instead of Vienna sausage or potted meat.
  • Choose fruit or raisins when you can.
  • Sometimes, get plain biscuits or a loaf of bread and some jelly, instead of sausage biscuits, doughnuts or fried pies.
  • Choose a restaurant that offers more than just fried foods.
  • Order regular hamburgers instead of double cheeseburgers or quarter- pound burgers.
  • Choose a grilled chicken sandwich or salad, but ask them to hold the mayonnaise or select fat-free/light dressing.
  • If ordering a fried chicken dinner, order the breast and remove the skin. Order plain mashed potatoes instead of coleslaw, onion rings or fries.  Corn is another good selection, if it is not swimming in butter.
  • Chicken fajitas, burritos and soft tacos are fairly good choices. Taco salads are fine if you do not eat the shell.
  • Pizza can be a healthy choice, especially if you bypass the meat toppings, order with half the cheese and ask for extra vegetables.
  • Get kids interested in salad bars. Allow them to help create the salad and stay away from mayonnaise-based pasta salads or potato salads.
  • Sub sandwiches are great, especially with whole-grain breads, low-fat fillings (lean turkey, ham, roast beef and vegetables) and mustard instead of mayonnaise.
  • Make sure kids have plenty of fruits and vegetables for snacks.
  • Choose pancakes with syrup only, low-fat muffins or English muffins.  Avoid high-fat, high-calorie breakfast sandwiches.
  • Read the labels! Look for grams of fat and milligrams of sodium. Remember that if you take in about 2000 calories a day, you should take in only 65 grams of fat, total. About 2300 milligrams of sodium a day would be about the right limit, if you're not on a low-sodium diet. Cups of soup or meal items to microwave are often high in sodium (800-1000 milligrams).
  • Order a salad when available, and ask for lettuce and tomato on a sandwich.



There are six food groups and one subgroup in the USDA Food Guide:

  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Milk
  • Meat and Beans
  • Oils
  • Discretionary Calorie Allowance (solid fat and added sugars)

No one food group is more important than another. There are no good foods or bad foods. It is important to balance the high-fat or high-sugar foods with low-fat or low-sugar foods over a period of one or two days.

3/24/2005 5:08:01 AM
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