What Are the Six Major Food Groups?

Updated April 17, 2017

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed the food pyramid as a way of establishing a basic guideline for individuals as to the recommended amount and type of foods they should be eating each day for optimum health. The pyramid includes six major food groups, along with the recommended daily servings for each.


Grains make up the largest portion of the food pyramid. Grains include pasta, bread, cereal, grits and tortillas. The USDA divides the grain food group into two main categories: whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains consist of bulgar, oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, brown rice and cornmeal. Refined grains, according to the USDA, should have the word "enriched" on their label and consist of white flour, white rice, white bread and degermed cornmeal.


The USDA defines vegetables as any vegetable that is raw, cooked, fresh, frozen, dried or dehydrated and includes 100 per cent vegetable juice in this category. The subgroups that make up vegetables include dark green vegetables, such as broccoli and kale; orange vegetables, such as butternut squash and carrots; peas and dry beans, such as black beans and tofu; starchy vegetables, such as corn and potatoes and other vegetables, like artichokes and beets.


Milk and milk products are included by the USDA as a food group. These include all fluid milk, including flavoured milk, dessert milk products, such as puddings and ice creams, cheeses of all types, plus cottage and ricotta cheese and yoghurt.


Fruits, like vegetables, make up a large portion of the food pyramid. According to the USDA, a serving of fruit is anything that is fresh, canned, frozen, fruit or 100 per cent fruit juice, such as melons, fruit cocktails, apple varieties, berries and citrus fruits.


Oils make up a small portion of the food pyramid. The USDA defines oils as fats that, at room temperature, become liquid. Oils and foods that contain oils fall within this food group and include olives, nuts, certain fish, avocados, olive oil and other plant-based or vegetable oils.

Meats and Beans

The last of the six major food groups is meats and beans. The USDA places all meat products, such as red meat, pork, and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and dry beans and peas in the group. The USDA also recommends incorporating plenty of these protein foods into your diet.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Aletha Reil has a bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y. She has been writing for more than three years and is currently working as a women's fitness columnist for a prominent website.