The “others” group – Where the food that doesn’t belong in a food group goes

If a food fits into the “others” group, is it ok to eat?

Children, who are learning to make food choices, may ask or wonder about this very questions. If they do ask, it’s good to be able to know why you can indulge in foods that are “others,” but why they aren’t a necessary part of a balanced diet. Explain that foods from the ChooseMyPlate’s five food groups (grain, fruit, vegetable, protein and dairy) should be enjoyed first.

Foods that go into the “others” group, according to Fuel Up to Play 60’s Nutrition Backgrounder, are foods like soft drinks, cookies, cake, chips and candy. Children need to understand that it’s ok to enjoy these foods sometimes. It’s also important that foods from the “others” group are eaten after they have already consumed the recommended amounts of the five food groups.

ChooseMyPlate.gov classifies the foods in the “others” group as providing empty calories. Empty calories are calories from solid fats and added sugars. Another way to think about if a food is a good choice, or should fit into the “others” group is the nutrients is has or doesn’t have.

When deciding if you should indulge in eating a food, consider what it will be giving to your body. Will it provide your body energy? Will it provide vitamins and minerals for your body? You can reference the Empty Calorie Chart from ChooseMyPlate.gov to help you decide if a food is the best choice.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that you enjoy foods like cake and ice-cream in moderation. Make sure that you first are getting your daily recommendations from the five food groups before you enjoy. Also, remember that you are an example to others, and can help teach those around you to make healthy choices too.

Here is a chart from ChooseMyPlate.gov to help preschool age children make food choices, but it can still be used by all ages.

Here are some ideas to help you choose foods lower in empty calories for your preschooler:

Instead of…

Choose

Regular cheese

Low-fat cheese

Sweetened yogurt

Plain yogurt plus fruit

Whole milk

Fat-free or low-fat milk

Sweetened breakfast cereals

Cereals with little or no added sugar

Cookies

Graham crackers

Fried chicken or fried fish

Baked chicken or fish

French fries

Oven-baked fries

Ice cream or frozen yogurt

Frozen fruits or frozen 100% fruit bars

Soft drinks or fruit punch

Water

Potato chips

Baked chips or whole grain crackers

Butter or margarine

Trans fat-free tub margarine

Jam or jelly

100% Fruit spread

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