Meal Composition, Food Groups, & Frequency

Dividing your day up by calories per meal is not all you need to do to monitor your daily food regimen to either lose or maintain weight.  It is not only how much, but also what and how frequently you eat.  

In order to keep the metabolism working efficiently, you need to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day by eating every 3-4 hours.  This enables your body to utilize its stored fat as fuel.  

  • When you don’t eat for long periods of time, the body holds on to fat
  • When you eat too much at a meal or if meals are too close together, this can increase fat storage

You can accomplish this by eating within 30 minutes of waking up and having 5 meals per day: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner.

Meal Composition: 

Your calories every day should come from the optimal food choices within the 6 main food groups.


The 6 Main Food Groups:

  • Protein – 5 servings/day
  • Dairy – 2 to 3 servings/day
  • Whole Grains – 4-5 servings/day
  • Vegetables – 5(+) servings/day 
  • Fruits – at least 3 servings/day 
  • Fats – 5 servings/day 

When to eat these food groups:

  • Protein should be included at every meal, including snacks
  • Fats and whole grains should be a part of the three main meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Veggies and Fruits can be included anytime throughout the day as long as they are eaten with protein
  • Dairy can also be eaten at any time, but is wonderful in the morning for breakfast and as an afternoon snack (Great tip: Greek yogurt is high in protein and makes for a well-rounded snack with combined with a serving of fruit)

Food Groups by Servings & Examples: 


Protein– 5 servings/day, 1 Serving is equivalent 7 grams or 

  • Lean sources have 55 calories/gram
  • Extra Lean sources have 35 calories/gram
  • Sources include: lean meat (ex: pork tenderloin,) poultry, fish, eggs, beans, soy, raw nuts, and nut butters
  • Serving sizes: 1 ounce lean meat, skinless poultry, fish, soy, or nuts, 1 egg, 1/4 Cup egg substitute, 1/2 Cup beans, 1 Tablespoon nut butter

Dairy– 2-3 servings/day, 1 Serving is equivalent to 45 calories or 15 grams

  • Best Sources Include: skim or low-fat milk, low-fat unflavored yogurt, rice, almond, hemp, or soy milk, low-fat cottage cheese, string cheese
  • Serving Size Examples: 1 Cup milk or unflavored yogurt, 1 ounce cheese or cottage cheese, 1 Cup alternative milk sources: hemp, almond, rice, or soy milk

Whole Grains – 4-5 servings/day, 1 Serving is equivalent to about 80 calories or 15 grams

  • Best Sources Include: unrefined, non-enriched grain sources like: whole grain bread, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, brown rice, steel-cut oatmeal, and barley
  • Serving Size Examples: 1/2 Cup of most whole grains, 1 slice whole grain bread, 1/2 Cup of brown rice

Vegetables– 5(+) servings/day, 1 Serving is equivalent to 25 calories or 15 grams

  • Best Sources Include: all veggies except those high in starch like: carrots, potatoes (are actually considered a carbohydrate,) peas, and corn
  • Serving Size Examples: 1/2 Cup cooked veggies, 1 Cup raw veggies
  • Note: veggies are generally low in calorie and high in fiber-they are great to fill you up

Fruit– 3 servings/day, 1 Serving is equivalent to 60 calories or 15 grams

  • Best Sources Include: citrus, apples, pears, bananas, grapes, berries, melons, no sugar added fruit juice, no sugar added dried fruit, and frozen fruits
  • Serving Size Examples: 1 whole piece of medium-sized fruit, 3/4 Cup berries or grapes, 1/2 Cup chopped fruit; fresh or frozen, 1/4 Cup dried fruit, 1/2 Cup juice
  • Note: dried fruits and fruit juice are not the optimal choices.  If you have them in your diet, please limit them to once per day at most.

Fats – 5 servings/day of healthy fats, 1 Serving is equivalent to about 45 calories or 5 grams

  • Best Sources Include: extra virgin olive oil, avocados, margarine/light margarine spreads, and homemade or organic salad dressings
  • Serving Sizes Include: any oil is about 1 teaspoon, 1/5 of an avocado, 2 teaspoons margarine, 1 tablespoon dressing


NutritionAshley Pettit