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Food Groups

A balanced and nutritious diet is one that includes all four food groups, in the right amounts. Each food group provides a different range of nutrients, so eating foods from all four food groups ensures that we get all the nutrients we need.

Food Groups and Recommended Number of Serves for Healthy NZ Adults (Ministry of Health, 2020)

Note, that these are broad guidelines for healthy NZ adults. The exact number of recommended servings will depend on gender, age, body size and activity. Recommendations also change for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Refer to Appendix 3 of the Ministry of Health’s Eating and Activity Guidelines or browse our Healthy Eating by Lifestages area for more info.

 

Food GroupKey Nutrients ProvidedRecommended No. Serves (Healthy NZ Adults)Serving Size Examples
Vegetables and FruitsFibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.At least 5-6 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit every day½ cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of salad
½ medium potato, or similar size piece of kumara, yam, or taro
1 medium apple, pear, banana or orange
1 cup of fresh, canned, frozen or stewed fruit salad
Grains (bread, rice, pasta, cereals)Whole grain foods are naturally high in fibre and contain vitamins and minerals. Refined grains have fewer naturally-occurring nutrients and much less fibre than whole grains.At least 6 servings every day – choose mostly whole grain and those naturally high in fibre. For older women aged 51–70 years, 4 servings are recommended instead of 6 as they have reduced physical activity and energy expenditure.2 breakfast wheat biscuits
½ medium whole grain bread roll or 1 slice of whole grain bread
½ cup of cooked porridge/rolled oats or ¼ cup of muesli
½ cup of cooked pasta or brown rice
Milk and milk products (milk, cheese, yoghurt)Protein and vitamins (B12, riboflavin) and minerals including calcium.At least 2.5 servings every day - choose low-fat or reduced-fat milk and milk products. For older women aged 51–70 years, 4 servings are recommended instead of 2 to help maintain bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis after menopause.1 glass (250 mL) of milk or calcium-fortified soy or rice milk
1 small pottle of yoghurt (150 g) or ¾ cup low- or reduced-fat yoghurt
2 slices (40 g) of cheese (eg, edam)
Legumes, nuts, seeds, fish & other seafood, eggs or poultry, or red meat with the fat removedProvide protein and important vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc. Legumes, nuts and seeds are high in fibre. Oily fish (eg, salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel) and some seafood (e.g. mussels) are good sources of omega 3At least 2.5 servings every day1 cup of cooked dried beans, peas or lentils
Small handful (30 g) of nuts or seeds
1 medium fillet of cooked fish (100 g)
2 eggs
2 chicken drumsticks or ½ chicken breast
2 slices cooked meat (65 g) (eg, roast lamb, beef or pork)
½ cup of mince or casserole

Source: Ministry of Health, 2020.

We need to eat a mixture of foods from the four food groups each day. Below are some examples of how we can include foods from each food group in everyday meals

Breakfast: wholegrain cereal topped with seasonal fruit and either milk or yoghurt.
Lunch: tuna salad sandwich, and chopped fruit on the side.
Dinner: beef burritos made up of tortillas, mince, beans, salad and cheese topping.

We also have an ‘extras’ group for foods that are not a necessary part of the diet. These foods include biscuits, cakes, pastry, lollies, chocolate, chips and fats and oils – all foods typically high in fat and/or sugar but very low in other nutrients e.g. fibre, vitamins and minerals.

For more information on each of the food groups, click on the links below:

References

Ministry of Health. 2020. Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults: Updated 2020. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Last modified: August 8, 2022