The Only 3 Food Groups That Matter!

The Only 3 Food Groups That Matter!

25 August, 2014 0

Healthy diets consist mainly of meals and snacks with the occasional treat. Each time you eat, consider whether you are eating a meal, a snack or a treat. Let’s define all three.

Like most Americans, you are probably familiar with the USDA’s food pyramid.  A 1970’s Swedish import, the food pyramid helps promote the federal government’s guidelines for a well-balanced diet. Experts recommend that healthy diets consist of a sensible combination of:

Vegetables, legumes and beans
Meat, fish, poultry and pulses
Grains (cereal) food
Fruits & Dairy

However, like so much generic health advice, these guidelines really do not help people improve their relationship with food. In other words, 35% of Americans are not overweight because they have never heard of the five main food groups.

Judging from the state of our health, the only food pyramids that most Americans regularly think about are covered in pepperoni and sausage! For a moment, forget about the food pyramid and the five main food groups and consider the only three food groups that matter.

“Meals, Snacks & Treats.”

Food Group #1 “The Meal”
Meals are any collection of unprocessed foods that provide the macro-nutrients needed for growth, metabolism and other body functions – aka real food.

Food Group #2 “The Snack”
Snacks are just smaller meals. Remember, a meal is any collection of unprocessed foods that provide the macro-nutrients needed for growth, metabolism and other body functions – aka real food.  It is not that complicated – an apple is a popular snack, but it could also be included in a meal.

Prepared snacks are invaluable when you first start improving your diet.  Like a trusted friend, snacking helps prevent you from making bad food choices out of desperation.  Small snacks should be eaten virtually around-the-clock and not detract from your weight management goals or overall health. Sometimes immediately after a meal, I will prepare one of my favorite snacks; air-popped popcorn. No problem.

Don’t over think it. When you get hungry between meals, grab a snack. If you get hungry between snacks; yes grab another snack. It’s more important that you form the habit of preparing snacks in advance than trying to restrict calories. Sound strange?

“I bet you can’t find a single person who is overweight because they eat too much real unprocessed food.

It’s possible, but so is winning the lottery twice in one day – it never happens.

People are overweight mainly because they eat an abundance of food-like treats.”

Does a little hunger mean that you must eat? No, but the reality is that we are surrounded by high-calorie, processed, cheap – delectable treats. Even a bit of hunger is undefeated against willpower. So if you walk around hungry, you are bound to grab a treat.

Caution: A common sense point is about to be made; brace yourself:

“Unless you are diabetic or have some other medical condition, pay no attention to confusing serving size guidelines; such as 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day.”

Eat real food and the serving sizes will more than take care of themselves. Again, I bet you can’t find a single person who is suffering from obesity, high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes because they eat four daily servings of grapes or nuts (two snacks that registered dietitians love to point out as being high in sugar and fat).  People suffer from these conditions mainly because they replace real food with an abundance of food-like treats.

Food Group #3 “The Treat”

We have mentioned them, but what are treats? Treats are processed food-like substances that normally do not naturally provide the nutrients needed for growth, metabolism and other body functions – aka not real food.

Some examples include but are not limited to nearly all Kraft products, candy, soda, potato chips, ready-made diet food, processed fruit juice, ice-cream and most restaurant food etc. – basically 90% of the products in the typical American grocery store and 99.9% of convenience foods.

Some treats have been altered to be less unhealthy than others. Some treats, such as most sauces, are added to snacks and meals. A few treats, fortified with nutrients and minerals, may even provide net health benefits – but at the end of the day any food not in group one or two is still a treat.

Where do we go from here?

Now that we have defined what they are – does this mean that you must give up treats? NOOOOO!!!!! First of all, the 5 Rules for Healthy Living is not a diet – it is a strategy to help beginners improve their relationship with food given our toxic food environment. Secondly, occasional treats are almost necessary to keep most people mentally on track.

 “It is not what you eat, but how you think about what you eat which is most important. The problem today is that we commonly eat treats that we think are actually real food”.

Food and beverage companies spend billions each year persuading us that treats such as candy bars, sport drinks, veggie chips etc. are acceptable snacks. In reality they are treats that should be enjoyed occasionally.

Why is our mentality so important? Travel back any time in human history and give someone a bowl of Lucky Charms, a Pop Tart and some Tropicana OJ – and after they got over their bemusement at the site of those food-like concoctions – they would immediately conclude that these items were some sort of futuristic treats. However, every morning millions of loving parents give this junk to their children – replacing an important meal (filled with essential nutrients) with an unnecessary treat (filled with processed sugar among other things). And we wonder why our kids are bouncing off the walls and can’t stay focused at school.

So I am confused again, are treats good or bad for you? Stop thinking of food as good or bad. Firstly treats are food-like, not food. For example, a roller-coaster can technically get you from Point A to Point B, but is it really a mode of transportation? No, it is transportation-like entertainment. Likewise, treats should be thought of as food-like entertainment – not good or bad.

This means that there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying treats occasionally. As a matter of fact, I enjoy certain treats on an almost daily basis – but, I never grab a treat such as a coke and potato chips thinking that I am having a snack – because I am not. This also means that there is no such thing as a fast food meal. There is a difference between merely acquiring calories and acquiring essential nutrients for survival.

So how many treats am I allowed to eat in a given week? I will not publish some arbitrary chart outlining how many treats I think you are allowed. Or tell you that you can have one cheat day. If that worked, we would all be skinny and this blog would be one page.

I will, however, ask that you evaluate your refrigerator and pantry. Are they filled with meals, snacks or treats?

Is this theory 100% scientifically sound? No. Does that matter at all? No. People are not overweight and out of shape because of scientific technicalities. If nutrition science improved behavior Americans would be the thinnest people on the planet! 

Start thinking about the three food groups before eating. I promise that you will improve your relationship with food. It’s that simple.

Tomorrow, each time before you eat, ask yourself, “Am I having a meal, a snack or a treat?” That is all you have to do.

Have you discussed this topic? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook Page


Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and cannot even spell nutritionist or dietitian, which in my opinion makes me overly qualified to share common sense healthy eating tips. However this blog is for entertainment and informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor for specific medical advice.

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