Food Intake

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Food Intake

Food Intake

Food Intake Patterns

The suggested amounts of food to consume from the basic food groups, subgroups, and oils to meet recommended nutrient intakes at 12 different calorie levels. Nutrient and energy contributions from each group are calculated according to the nutrient-dense forms of foods in each group (e.g., lean meats and fat-free milk). The table also shows the discretionary calorie allowance that can be accommodated within each calorie level, in addition to the suggested amounts of nutrient-dense forms of foods in each group.

Daily Amount of Food From Each Group:

Calorie Level11,0001,2001,400
Fruits21 cup1 cup1.5 cups
Vegetables31 cup1.5 cups1.5 cups
Grains43 oz–eq4 oz–eq5 oz–eq
Meat & Beans52 oz–eq3 oz–eq4 oz–eq
Milk62 cups2 cups2 cups
Oils73 tsp4 tsp4 tsp
Discretionary Calorie Allowance8165171171

Calorie Level11,6001,8002,000
Fruits21.5 cup1.5 cups2 cups
Vegetables32 cups2.5 cups2.5 cups
Grains45 oz–eq6 oz–eq6 oz–eq
Meat & Beans55 oz–eq5 oz–eq5.5 oz–eq
Milk63 cups3 cups3 cups
Oils75 tsp5 tsp6 tsp
Discretionary Calorie Allowance8132195267

Calorie Level12,2002,4002,600
Fruits22 cups2 cups2 cups
Vegetables33 cups3 cups3.5 cups
Grains47 oz–eq8 oz–eq9 oz–eq
Meat & Beans56 oz–eq6.5 oz–eq6.5 oz–eq
Milk63 cups3 cups3 cups
Oils76 tsp7 tsp8 tsp
Discretionary Calorie Allowance8290362410

Calorie Level12,8003,0003,200
Fruits22.5 cups2.5 cups2.5 cups
Vegetables33.5 cups4 cups4 cups
Grains410 oz–eq10 oz–eq10 oz–eq
Meat & Beans57 oz–eq7 oz–eq7 oz–eq
Milk63 cups3 cups3 cups
Oils78 tsp10 tsp11 tsp
Discretionary Calorie Allowance8426512648

  1. Calorie Levelsare set across a wide range to accommodate the needs of different individuals. The attached table “Estimated Daily Calorie Needs” can be used to help assign individuals to the food intake pattern at a particular calorie level.

  2. Fruit Groupincludes all fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and fruit juices. In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or 1/2 cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the fruit group.

  3. Vegetable Groupincludes all fresh, frozen, canned, and dried vegetables and vegetable juices. In general, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as 1 cup from the vegetable group.

    Vegetable Subgroup Amounts are Per Week:

    Calorie Level1,0001,2001,4001,6001,8002,000
    Dark Green Veg1 c/wk1.5 c/wk1.5 c/wk2 c/wk3 c/wk3 c/wk
    Orange Veg0.5 c/wk1 c/wk1 c/wk1.5 c/wk2 c/wk2 c/wk
    Legumes0.5 c/wk1 c/wk1 c/wk2.5 c/wk3 c/wk3 c/wk
    Starchy Veg1.5 c/wk2.5 c/wk2.5 c/wk2.5 c/wk3 c/wk3 c/wk
    Other Veg3.5 c/wk4.5 c/wk4.5 c/wk5.5 c/wk6.5 c/wk6.5 c/wk

    Calorie Level2,2002,4002,6002,8003,0003,200
    Dark Green Veg3 c/wk3 c/wk3 c/wk3 c/wk3 c/wk3 c/wk
    Orange Veg2 c/wk2 c/wk2.5 c/wk2.5 c/wk2.5 c/wk2.5 c/wk
    Legumes3 c/wk3 c/wk3.5 c/wk3.5 c/wk3.5 c/wk3.5 c/wk
    Starchy Veg6 c/wk6 c/wk7 c/wk7 c/wk9 c/wk9 c/wk
    Other Veg7 c/wk7 c/wk8.5 c/wk8.5 c/wk10 c/wk10 c/wk

  4. Grains Groupincludes all foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, such as bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits. In general, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cooked cereal can be considered as 1 ounce equivalent from the grains group.At least half of all grains consumed should be whole grains.

  5. Meat & Beans Groupin general, 1 ounce of lean meat, poultry, or fish, 1 egg, 1 Tbsp. peanut butter, 1/4 cup cooked dry beans, or 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce equivalent from the meat and beans group.

  6. Milk Groupincludes all fluid milk products and foods made from milk that retain their calcium content, such as yogurt and cheese. Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, are not part of the group. Most milk group choices should be fat-free or low-fat. In general, 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese can be considered as 1 cup from the milk group.

  7. Oilsinclude fats from many different plants and from fish that are liquid at room temperature, such as canola, corn, olive, soybean, and sunflower oil. Some foods are naturally high in oils, like nuts, olives, some fish, and avocados. Foods that are mainly oil include mayonnaise, certain salad dressings, and soft margarine.

  8. Discretionary Calorie Allowanceis the remaining amount of calories in a food intake pattern after accounting for the calories needed for all food groups—using forms of foods that are fat-free or low-fat and with no added sugars.

Estimated Daily Calorie Needs:

To determine which food intake pattern to use for an individual, the following chart gives an estimate of individual calorie needs. The calorie range for each age/sex group is based on physical activity level, from sedentary to active.

Calorie Range
2-3 Years1,0001,400

4-8 Years1,2001,800
9-13 Years1,6002,200
14-18 Years1,8002,400
19-30 Years2,0002,400
31-50 Years1,8002,200
51+ Years1,6002,200

4-8 Years1,4002,000
9-13 Years1,8002,600
14-18 Years2,2003,200
19-30 Years2,4003,000
31-50 Years2,2003,000
51+ Years2,0002,800

Sedentarymeans a lifestyle that includes only the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.

Activemeans a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.


U.S. Department of Agriculture
Center for Nutrition Policy & Promotion
April 2005
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