How Many Food Groups Are There?

There are five main food groups. This Teaching Wiki will help you to define the five food groups, their functions, and their nutritional value.

What Are The Five Foods Groups?

The five main food groups are:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Dairy
  • Fat

We divide the different types of food into five groups. Here, you can learn about the other food groups and how much each group should make up our balanced diet. All food groups – the right amount of carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, protein, dairy (alternatives), and fat – are all part of a balanced diet, each having nutritional value. Need help defining the main food groups? This guide should be a great help while also explaining the nutritional value of the main food groups. You’ll also be able to learn more about the food groups and their sources.

All countries differ slightly in how they define food groups and their functions. This guide focuses on the UK food groups. However, most countries’ food groups are similar, with only the names often different. Continue reading to learn more about the food groups and their nutritional values, along with examples of food from each food group.

Are There Seven Food Groups?

You may come across references to seven food groups. This refers to the seven nutrients we obtain from the five food groups. The seven food groups (nutrients) are:

  • carbohydrates
  • protein
  • fiber
  • fats
  • minerals
  • vitamins
  • water

To maintain a healthy, balanced diet, the most significant proportion of our diets should be made up of this food group. We should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day as they’re vital to our health and general body functions, providing us with essential nutrients as they possess high nutritional value. This food group is good for our bodies because:

  • Fruit and vegetables are highly nutritional, being our primary source of vitamins and minerals. This help to maintain our immune systems, enabling us to fight off disease.
  • They’re also a source of fiber. Fiber helps us to maintain good digestion and bowel health, and it also lowers cholesterol.
  • Food groups and their sources – fruit and vegetables include broccoli, tomatoes, oranges, lettuce, carrots, and peppers.

What counts as one portion of fruit and vegetables?

  • One apple, pear, banana, orange, or any fruit of a similar size;
  • A handful of grapes, berries, or cherries;
  • One slice of a large fruit, like a pineapple or a melon.

*A good tip to ensure you’re always getting enough fruit and veg is to try and make it so half of your plate is made up of fruit and vegetables.


One of the main food groups, carbohydrates, should make up around one-third of our diet. Carbohydrates are our body’s leading energy source, the primary energy-giving food group. Citations of this food group include:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Grains

Carbohydrates also have nutritional value; they are essential because:

  • They provide us with nutrients, fiber, vitamins, calcium, and iron. This helps to maintain digestive health.

*In too great a quantity, carbohydrates can be bad for us as they include a lot of starch. A good tip is to eat wholegrain, which provides us with more fiber than refined grains.


Protein should make up one-eighth of our diet. Protein-filled foods include:

  • Fish
  • Pulses
  • Meats
  • Eggs
  • Nuts

Proteins are also high in nutritional value. They are essential in maintaining a healthy, balanced diet because:

  • These foods provide us with amino acids. Amino acids are essential as they are the building blocks for protein in our bodies. The function of these food groups is to maintain healthy bodily functions, including growth, digestion, healing, and providing us with energy.
  • Protein provides us with vitamins and minerals.
  • Food groups and their sources – protein is sourced through eggs, fish, and meat.

*Like carbohydrates, too much protein isn’t good for us. However, it’s also important to remember that pulses and nuts are just as important as meat in providing protein. Also, when eating meat, aim to eat leaner meat with a lower fat content.


Dairy is vital in maintaining the body. This food group makes up a smaller proportion of our diets, and it’s recommended that children have 2 or 2.5 servings daily. Sources of this food group include:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Cream cheese
  • Alternatives such as soya drinks, yogurts and oat, nut and rice milk

Dairy is an important food group because:

  • It’s our primary source of calcium. This food group’s function is to maintain healthy teeth and bones, as calcium is essential for growth.

*Dairy products can have a high-fat content, so eat low-fat options for dairy products.


Fats exist in different forms and are both healthy and unhealthy, so we need to be careful about how much we eat, and fats should form a minor proportion of our diets, with 70g being the maximum amount of fat per day. The function of this food group is:

  • To help us to absorb vitamins and help growth.

Sources of saturated fats include:

  • Oils and spreads
  • Chocolate
  • Sweets
  • Biscuits

Although fats are good for us in small amounts, we often consume too much-saturated fat, which is linked to high cholesterol, weight gain, and heart disease. This is why of the 70g maximum recommended for adults, only 20g is made up of saturated fats.

Unsaturated fats hold high nutritional value and are essential in maintaining a balanced diet. Unsaturated fats can lower cholesterol. Sources of this food group are:

  • Oily fish
  • Nuts
  • Avocados

These foods all include omega fats that are good for your heart and lower cholesterol. Therefore, the function of this food group is to maintain heart health.

*To reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet, try cooking with vegetable oil rather than butter and using yogurt instead of cream.

What are Healthy Food Groups?

All food groups are essential to maintaining a healthy diet and have nutritional value. Fruit and vegetables should make up the most significant portion of our diets because this food group provides us with the essential nutrients we need for our bodies to function well. However, the main food groups of protein, carbohydrates, and fats are also healthy energy sources and nutrients. Therefore, all food groups are part of a healthy diet when eaten in the proper proportions.

The only food group that would be considered unhealthy is saturated fats. These fats include cakes, cookies, crisps, and fried foods. When eaten too large, saturated fats can lead to a greater risk of diseases like heart disease. However, these fats are perfectly safe to eat and can form part of a healthy diet when eaten in low quantities.

What is Energy Giving Food Groups?

Carbohydrates are an energy-giving food group. As a nutrient, carbohydrate is sourced through most food groups, but primarily through starchy foods, such as potatoes, rice, pasta, and bread.

What counts as one portion of carbohydrates?

  1. One slice of bread
  2. Six tablespoons of pasta/rice
  3. Two small new potatoes

As carbohydrates are also present in fruits and vegetables, dairy and grain, these food groups are also energy-giving.

What Food Groups Should I Eat Daily?

To maintain a healthy, balanced diet, we must eat a certain amount of food groups each day. This is because each food group has nutritional value.

How many food groups make up a balanced diet? Well, each of the five food groups makes up a balanced diet. So, carbohydrates, protein, fruit and vegetables, dairy (alternatives), and healthy fats are essential in ensuring a healthy and balanced diet. As stated above, fruit and vegetables should form the most significant proportion of our diet, followed by carbohydrates, proteins, dairy and healthy fats.

In our daily diet, we should aim to consume food from each food group. So, for example, getting five a day will ensure you’ve consumed enough vitamins and minerals from fruit and vegetables. This, along with carbohydrates and protein, will provide you’ve consumed necessary nutrients and energy.

Saturated, unhealthy fats should form a minor portion of our balanced and daily diet. Therefore, it’s important to enjoy food in moderation. For example, consuming biscuits and other sweet treats are lovely as long as we get our necessary daily vitamins and minerals from the other four food groups. These unhealthy fats form the smallest part of our diets.

How Many Food Groups are in the Food Pyramid?

All five primary food groups are included in the food pyramid. Like the Eatwell guide, the food pyramid divides the different food groups into layers, representing a proportion of our diet. The most significant layer, the base of the pyramid, represents the most critical portion of our diet.

As our primary source of vitamins and minerals, fruit and vegetables comprise the base of the food pyramid. After fruit and vegetables, it’s carbohydrates, protein, and dairy products, fats are at the tip of the pyramid, representing a minor portion of our diets.

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