According to the USDA’s MyPlate, every day your body needs a healthy mix of the five major food groups: fruits, veggies, grains, protein, and dairy. But it’s often easier said than done to eat a balanced diet.
So to help you on your way to healthier eating we’re breaking down the five must-have food groups, including how much you need and creative ways to add these healthy foods to your plate. Plus, we’re sharing what our Trainers eat in a day so you can get the ultimate breakdown of what this looks like in practice.
With the optimal nutrition fueling your fight, you’ll be ready to step into the ring with more power, strength, and long-lasting energy.
Five Major Food Groups
Fruit is an essential part of a healthy diet. They’re loaded with tons of health-boosting vitamins and minerals such as potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate—which most people don’t get nearly enough of, especially fiber. More than 90% of women and 97% of men don’t get enough fiber in their diets and this has major consequences for your health.
By adding fruit to at least two meals throughout your day you increase your fiber and nutrient intake while improving your heart health and reducing your risk of several chronic diseases. Plus, they’re deliciously sweet and the perfect addition to your breakfast, mid-afternoon snack, or after-dinner dessert.
How much do I need?
USDA’s MyPlate recommends around 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit each day for women and 2 to 2.5 cups for men. One cup is equal to a full apple, orange, or banana or a full cup size worth of blueberries, mango, watermelon, and so on.
Here are some creative ways to add more fruit to your daily diet:
- Add bananas and peanut or almond butter to your toast in the morning
- Instead of reaching for the junk drawer, whip up a hearty smoothie filled with veggies and frozen fruit as your late-afternoon snack
- Keep a bowl of oranges or clementines at your desk to enjoy when you get hungry
- Add blueberries or strawberries to your yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal
- Look for 100% fruit juice and mix it with your water for a refreshing, hydrating, and nutritious beverage
- Dip bananas or strawberries into melted dark chocolate for the perfect post-dinner treat
- Next time you’re at the grocery store give a fruit you’ve never had before a try like papayas, figs, guava, or kiwi
Your body needs veggies as part of a healthy and balanced diet. That’s because they’re packed with tons of nutrients including potassium, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin C. But problem is, they have a bit of a reputation for “tasting bad”. But there’s more to veggies than salads!
There are actually five different categories of delicious vegetables to choose from and add to your routine:
- Dark green veggies: broccoli, bok choy, chard, collard greens, kale, spinach, arugula, basil, cilantro, and more
- Red and orange veggies: Carrots, pumpkin, red and orange bell peppers, red chili peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, winter squash
- Beans, peas, lentils: Black, brown, fava, garbanzo, kidney, lima, mung, navy, pink, pinto, soy, or white beans, and black-eyed peas, split peas, and red, brown, and green lentils
- Starchy veggies: Corn, green peas, white potatoes, breadfruit, cassava, plantains
- Other veggies: Avocado, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, onions, okra, mushrooms, green bell peppers, summer squash, cauliflower, and more
How much do I need?
USDA’s MyPlate recommends around 2.5 to 3 cups of veggies each day for women and 3 to 4 cups for men. One cup is equal to a large bell pepper, sweet potato, or tomato. Or a full cup size worth of broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, cabbage, and so on. Try adding veggies to your plate with every meal.
Here are some creative ways to add more veggies to your daily diet:
- Every time you cook up some meat, add veggies like onions, mushrooms, or peppers to the pan for a delicious stir fry
- Salads don’t have to be boring! Add in veggies like shredded carrots, juicy tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and red onion along with some avocado, pinto beans, chicken, and feta cheese for a healthy and delicious meal
- Sneak veggies like kale into your post-workout smoothie
- For a mid-afternoon snack try carrots or bell peppers dipped into hummus
- Make homemade guacamole using red onions, tomatoes, avocado, and red chili peppers
Grains include foods like bread, cereal, oatmeal, rice, quinoa, oats, or barley. They’re broken down into two categories: whole grains and refined grains.
Whole grains—like brown rice, bulgur, oatmeal, and whole wheat flour—contain the entire grain kernel. Refined grains—like white rice, white flour, or white bread—are milled or processed to remove the bran and germ. This is to help extend the shelf life and texture of the product. But in the process, refined grains lose a lot of their nutritional value like dietary fiber, iron, and B vitamins.
That’s why USDA’s MyPlate recommends that at least half your grains be whole grain. And for refined grain products, check the back label. Some products add back in their vitamins and minerals—or what’s called "enriched". And make sure to look for high-fiber grains whenever possible.
How much do I need?
USDA’s MyPlate recommends around 6 to 8 oz-equivalent of grains each day for women and 8 to 10 oz-equivalent for men. And half of those grains should be whole grains. One ounce equivalent is equal to about one slice of whole-wheat bread or half a cup of couscous, barley, bulgur, quinoa, or brown rice.
Here are some creative ways to add more whole grains to your daily diet:
- Swap out your white bread for a hearty 100% whole wheat bread instead
- For a snack enjoy some popcorn, whole-grain pita chips, or a slice of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter
- Try adding bulgur, quinoa, or brown rice to your dinner plate—they’re rich in texture and taste
- Check the back label of your cereal and look for whole-grain or enriched grains or swap for oatmeal instead
Protein is the basic building block of life. It makes up your bones, muscles, tissue, skin, and blood. And along with fat and carbohydrates, it’s one of the three major macronutrients that your body needs to survive. High protein foods also contain health-supporting nutrients like zinc, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins.
The good news is that most Americans get more than enough protein in their diet. The bad news is that most of that protein comes from beef or poultry—which are often high in saturated fats and sodium. That’s why the USDA recommends adding more seafood and plant-based protein sources into your diet such as salmon, trout, beans, lentils, and soy foods like tofu or tempeh. Seafood is especially important for getting nutrients such as vitamin D and healthy unsaturated fats like omega-3.
How much do I need?
USDA’s MyPlate recommends around 5 to 6.5 oz-equivalent of protein each day for women and 6 to 7 oz-equivalent for men. One ounce equivalent is equal to about one slice of deli meat, one egg, or 1 tablespoon of nuts.
Here are some creative ways to add more healthy protein sources to your daily diet:
- Try swapping your steak or pork with salmon or trout
- Opt for lean or low-fat meat and poultry options
- Enjoy a delicious omelet breakfast with eggs and veggies
- For a snack enjoy a handful of nuts and seeds, hard-boiled eggs, roasted chickpeas, or a bean dip with veggies and pita chips
- Try cutting up and adding some thin slices of tofu to your next stir fry dinner (or maybe give tempeh a try)
Dairy includes foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, and soy milk that are high in calcium, potassium, vitamin D, protein, and healthy fats. They help build and maintain optimal bone health, prevent osteoporosis, and fill you up with needed nutrients.
Some of these products do contain saturated or unhealthy fats, like sour cream, cream cheese, and whole milk, so it’s important to look for low-fat or fat-free dairy options. Or if you’re lactose intolerant or vegan you can opt for dairy-free options like fortified soy milk or soy yogurt.
How much do I need?
USDA’s MyPlate recommends around 3 cups of dairy each day for both men and women.
Here are some creative ways to add more dairy to your daily diet:
- Enjoy a bowl of yogurt and pile on the blueberries, strawberries, and almond slices for extra flavor and texture (yogurt is also rich in probiotics which are great for your gut)
- If you’re not into milk, try adding soy, almond, hemp, coconut, oat, or rice milk into your diet (look for options fortified with calcium whenever possible)
- Add cheese to your meals for extra protein and flavor like your salads, soups, or baked potatoes
- There are also plenty of other high-calcium options outside of dairy like calcium-fortified orange juice, canned fish, tofu, and even some veggies like collard greens, spinach, and kale that you can try instead
What Our Trainers Eat In a Day
Here’s a typical day with our Trainers. Notice all the major food groups are present including fruits, veggies, grains, protein, and dairy.
- Chris: Eggs and sausage
- Mary: Eggs, fruit, and pancakes
- Jill: Yogurt with bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and oats
- Myles: A breakfast sandwich with eggs and cheese
- Jill: Chicken and potatoes
- Mary: Salad with tomatoes and carrots and rice and bean tacos
Snack and post-workout:
- Mary: Yogurt with grapes
- Myles: Yogurt
- Max: Smoothie with protein powder, spinach, collagen, fruit, and almond milk
- Lissa: Acai bowl with strawberries, blueberries, and oats
Want some more post-workout eating tips? Check out our blog How to Fuel Your Boxing Workout: What to Eat Before, During, and After.
- Max: Stir fry with sauteed veggies and tofu
- Dillon: Salad with some whole wheat bread on the side
- Lissa: Chicken and veggie kabobs
Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different. So before making any changes to your diet make sure to check in with your primary care doctor or nutritionist. They can help you set realistic and healthy goals that align with your specific needs.
And make sure to check out the USDA’s MyPlate Plan. This resource helps you get a better sense of your food group targets by providing a personalized food plan based on your age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level. Then, when you’re feeling energized from all these health-supporting foods you can press play on your next Liteboxer workout.