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Select the Best That Food Groups Have to Offer

You know it is important to include items from all of the food groups into your healthy eating plan, but do you know the best options? Learn the benefits of each food group to make the most nutritious choices.


● For maximum health benefits, eat three or more servings of whole grains each day. One serving of whole grains is found in 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal, 1 slice of whole-grain bread, and 1/3 cup cooked brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. You will find that many Jenny Craig foods include whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat and oats.

● Although you make not think of “starch” or “carbs” when it comes to vegetables, some contain close to 15 grams of carbohydrate per serving and are therefore considered a starch exchange. Examples of starchy vegetables are corn, peas, potatoes, yams, pumpkin, water chestnuts, and winter squash such as acorn and butternut.

● Keep your eye on the size. It can be easy to eat a larger serving of starches than you planned. Some can provide multiple carbohydrate exchanges. For example, one large bagel may equal 4 starch servings.


● This list is broken down even further into lean proteins and medium/high fat proteins depending upon how much fat they contain. Since medium/high fat proteins contain more grams of fat than lean proteins, they count as 1 protein and 1 fat exchange. For less calories, saturated fat and cholesterol, choose lean proteins whenever possible.

● This group is rich in protein which maintains your muscles, heart, kidney and lungs. Dietary protein is necessary for the growth and development of muscles, hair, skin and nails.

● Plant-based proteins such as tofu, beans and lentils are great options. Because carbohydrate content varies, be sure to read the food label. If the item has 15 grams of carbohydrate, count it as one carbohydrate as well as one meat. Some examples are black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils.


● Nonfat milk and yogurt are great sources of calcium and protein. If you are lactose intolerant, try yogurt or look for lactose-reduced or lactose-free varieties of milk. You can also exchange 2 lean meats (see Jenny’s Grocery List) for 1 milk serving.

● Not all milk is created equal. Just because it has the word “milk” in it doesn’t mean it counts as a milk exchange. For a milk to classify as a milk exchange, calcium has to be at least 20% and protein needs to be about 7 grams per serving. Although many milk items (almond, rice and coconut) are fortified with calcium and nutrients that mimic the same benefits as dairy milk, the protein is minimal.


● Fruits contain fiber as well as essential health-promoting compounds called phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are natural compounds found only in plants, which provide a variety of health benefits and also give fruits and vegetables their bright colors.

● To get a healthy variety, think color and eat across the rainbow. This will provide your body with a wide range of valuable nutrients.

● Watch serving sizes of dried fruits. They are dehydrated (have less water content) which reduces the volume compared to fresh fruit. This means there are more calories in dried fruit vs fresh for the same serving size. For example, 1 cup of grapes provides about 104 calories compared to 1 cup of raisins which has about 434 calories! You can still enjoy dried fruit, just watch the portion size.


● Veggies are low in fat and calories and high in fiber. Like fruits, they also contain a powerful punch of health-promoting phytonutrients. They not only add nutrition to your meals, but they can add flavor, crunch and color to any dish.

● To maximize the benefits, choose a variety of colors such as dark green, yellow, orange, red and purple -- even white is good too! Try broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, all leafy greens, bell peppers, red cabbage, mushrooms, onions, garlic and tomatoes.


● Fat is a source of long-lasting energy for the body. It transports fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K through the blood and provides texture and flavor to foods.

● Choose heart-healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive or canola oil.

The Jenny Craig Program using the food exchange system to help ensure your weight loss meal plan is nutritionally balanced. With the balance of the Jenny Craig plan and the tips above, you’re all set to build a lighter and healthier life.