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The 'Fifth' Food Group Can Ruin a Nutritious Diet : Restricting Foods High in Calories, Low in Nutrients Is Step Toward Good Eating Habits

March 14, 1985

A four-food-group diet is as balanced as Olympic star Mary Lou Retton, but too much of the seldom mentioned fifth group can knock a nutritious diet right off the beam, warns the California Dietetic Assn. (CDA), Los Angeles District.

The nutrient-based food groups--milk, meat, vegetables and fruits, breads and cereals--are based on the major nutrients they supply such as calcium for bones and teeth, protein for healthy muscles, A, C and B vitamins for healthy skin and tissues and fiber for proper digestion.

The 'fifth' food group, however, accents four food group selections with extra flavor, but is high in calories and low in nutrients. Members of the fifth food group include alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, high-fat and high-sugar extra foods such as mayonnaise, oils, butter, margarine, gravies, cookies, cakes, candy and chips.

When these extra foods are continually substituted for nutritious foods, such as a can of soda pop instead of a glass of juice or milk, or some cookies instead of a piece of fruit, nutrition suffers in the long run.

To maintain a nutritious diet, the CDA suggests selecting a variety of foods from the food groups and keeping an eye on foods from the fifth food group.

The average healthy adult needs two daily servings each from the milk and meat groups including low-fat selections such as low-fat milk and cheese and lean cuts of beef, poultry and fish, and four daily servings each from the vegetables/fruits--raw or lightly cooked are best--and whole grain breads/cereals groups.

By consuming the recommended number of servings, you will get all the nutrients necessary for a healthy and active life style.

Try keeping track of all the foods you eat for one day. You will begin to realize where the fifth food group creeps in: the doughnut you had at coffee break (an extra 200 calories), the mayonnaise you had on a burger at lunchtime (one tablespoon equals about 105 calories) and the onion rings on the side (about 351 calories), or the dressing on the salad (one tablespoon Thousand Island, 70 calories) and the Hollandaise on the broccoli you ate with dinner (60 calories per ounce).

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