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What are the Different Food Options?

A brown paper bag bursting with different kinds of food.

Do you remember, in 1992, when they first introduced the food pyramid? We had always known, in the backs of our minds, that there were ‘food groups’, but as if we had not known before, we now knew that we could not eat only potatoes, pasta, and rice and be healthy.

The pyramid laid out for us how many servings per day we must eat out of each food group to be healthy. Well, did you know that there are even more food groups within those food groups? It doesn’t matter which group we find them in and which food we choose, we just love to eat food. Here are the types of food there are and the types that exist within those:

Vegetables

A colorful display of different kinds of vegetables.

Vegetables are full of nutrients, like vitamins and minerals. They are a good source of fiber. There is a vast variety to choose from in a rainbow of vibrant colors. Raw with peanut butter or ranch dip, steamed, sauteed, baked, fried, or as a juice, vegetables are a part of culinary culture worldwide.

An illustrative chart depicting the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.

Asteraceae

Made up of more than 23,000 species of daisies, Asteraceae is known also as the ‘daisy family’ or the ‘composite family’. Edible flowering plants and a few herbaceous plants comprise this family, which includes lettuces, artichokes, endives, chamomiles, and tarragons.

Alliaceae Family

Vegetables from the Alliaceae family are friends to all of us who consider ourselves ‘home cooks’. They include garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, and chives. These veggies not only make our food taste great, but they guard us against illnesses like heart disease and cancer.

Brassicaceae Family

Green, leafy vegetables, the cruciferous vegetables, are from the Brassicaceae family. They are radically high in nutrients. These veggies include kales, cabbages, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflowers, Brussel sprouts, turnip greens, mustard greens, wasabis, horseradishes, radishes, watercresses, and kohlrabis.

Cucurbitaceae Family

Gourds are my personal favorite. Botanists actually consider members of the Cucurbitaceae family, or ‘gourds’, to be fruits instead of vegetables since you eat the flesh of the plant and not the leaves, but most use them as veggies since they are not very sweet. This family includes pumpkins, cantaloupes, cucumbers, squashes, and my favorite, zucchinis.

Solanaceae Family

The Solanaceae family of vegetables is known as the ‘potato family’ with many of its members thought of as valuable for their use as drugs. This family of veggies (which is, for the most part, actually berries) includes eggplants, tomatoes, capsicums, and chilies.

Fabaceae Family

Soybeans, lentils, peas, and beans of all kinds are members of the Fabaceae family. They are a large part of a vegan diet because of their high protein content.

Apiaceae Family

Commonly called the ‘parsley’ family, the Apiaceae family is mainly made up of spices and root vegetables, which are used to flavor foods in about every culture from America to China and Asia. This family includes carrots, cumin, celery, cilantro, parsnip, dill, fennel, coriander, and well, parsley.

Amaranthaceae Family

The Amaranthaceae family is where the distinct vegetables are found. Offering tons of vitamins, like riboflavin, folate, niacin, and thiamin, these veggies include beetroots, quinoas, goosefoots, Swiss chards, sugar beets, amaranths, and spinaches.

Poaceae Family

Vegetables belonging to this family are a staple in many kinds of diets. What these veggies are, you ask? They are corns, oats, barley, wheat, sugarcane, rice, ryes, and barleys.

Fruits

A rustic basket filled with different fruits.

Fruits are also a good source of fiber with a rainbow of vibrant variety to choose from. Raw with strawberry cream cheese dip, just baked like they are, or fried in a pie, people treat their families with fruits around the world.

An illustrative chart depicting the health benefits of eating fruits.

Citrus Fruits

Fruits like oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruits, and mandarins are citrus fruits, in which the water content is upwards of 87%. Citrus fruits are bursting with vitamin C, which is known to have positive effects on your immune system. They are full of potassium, too.

Pome Fruits

Quinces and Saskatoon berries are pome fruits, but the best-known pome fruits are apples and pears. They don’t say “an apple a day…” for no reason. Pome fruits are quite nutritious, containing a plethora of vitamins and minerals.

Stone Fruits

Stone fruits have a fitting name, as these fruits have a stone in them, which is called a ‘pit’. You can eat their tasty skin, and they are juicy and delicious. These are some stone fruits: peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, and mangoes. Stone fruits promote healthy eyesight, digestion, immunity, and muscles, and they protect you from heart disease and cancer.

Tropical Fruits

Another name for tropical fruit is an exotic fruit, and as you can probably guess, it is grown in warm climates, like the tropics. Tropical fruits are energy-boosting and nutrient-rich. These are some tropical fruits: avocados, coconuts, papayas, Jackfruits, starfruits, passion fruits, and bananas (I just adore bananas).

Berries

Strawberries are scrumptious – just sayin’! Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, lingonberries, and many more make up the berry family, the healthiest fruit family, which fights off chronic disease. Full of the antioxidants that fight off free radicals, berries are good for your skin and can help diabetics in controlling their disease. Berries contain Vitamin C, copper, folate, and vitamin K.

Melons

Full of vitamins and minerals, melons are a tasty treat. Choose from true cantaloupes, netted cantaloupes (Galia melons, Sharlyn melons), winter melons (honeydew melons, Casaba melons), and watermelons.

Proteins

The different sources of protein.

My BFF is a vegan, but it’s something I could never fathom. My pappy, my grandfather, was a butcher, and we ate meat at every meal. It does not have to be a large serving, but if I do not have meat, I feel as if I do not have a meal. Protein, a macronutrient, helps us build up healthy muscles and gives us fuel to do what we need to do.

An illustrative chart depicting the health benefits of protein.

Meat

Go into almost any fine restaurant in the nation and you will see choices for beef and pork. That is because they are quite delicious and have been a part of people’s diets for many years. People eat other meats, as well, like a lamb, rabbit, deer, and more. Meat is a great iron source; you can also get zinc, iodine, fatty acids, and much more. Meat, according to what cut you purchase, can be high in fat.

Eggs

The incredible, edible egg…they did a good job when they came up with that one! I mean, does anyone not know that – or am I just old? Eggs are so versatile. You can eat them at all three meals. If I happen to be in an egg mood, I’ll have over-medium eggs and bacon for breakfast, an egg salad sandwich for lunch, and deviled eggs with supper. Yummy! Full of vitamins A, D, E, and K, eggs are full of protein.

Poultry

Ducks, turkeys, and chickens are the best examples of the poultry we eat for our protein. Chicken is the best-loved of them, probably because it is affordable and has a wonderful flavor. Rich in niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, folate, and vitamins A, C, B6, B12, D, E, and K, chicken is quite nutritious, besides being very delicious. I know…I know.

Dairy

A look at different types of dairy food.

Dairy products are delicious alone, and they are a precious commodity because they are a great help in cooking. They are full of calcium and vitamin D, as well as protein, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin A.

Milk

An illustrative chart depicting the health benefits of milk.

Fresh milk is quite nutritious. Not getting enough milk can cause osteoporosis.

Yogurt

An illustrative chart depicting the health benefits of yogurt.

Yogurt is the product of milk fermentation. Yogurt helps your bones, strengthens your immune system, and helps you lose weight.

Cheese

An illustrative chart depicting the health benefits of cheese.

What is it about cheese that people love so much? On pizza, pasta, tacos, just about anything, cheese is piled on to top it off. From mild to extra sharp cheddars, Colby, Colby-Jack, whole milk to part-skim mozzarellas, provolone, asiago, cotija, gouda, feta, and many more, cheese is here to stay.

Baked Goods

An assortment of baked goods spilling out of a paper bag.

Baking seems to be a lost art, but my family loves that it is something I know how to do. I bake wonderfully delicious pies, cakes, biscuits, cornbread, and I am learning how to bake leavened bread. It is not really hard. I have just always been afraid I would fail at it (a weakness of mine), so I have not tried. I am getting over that and learning that it is all right to fail sometimes. It is the only way to learn to succeed at anything, even baking.

An illustrative chart depicting the health benefits of bread.

Cakes

Sweets get a bad rap. It is eating them in moderation that is the problem. Whether it is old-fashioned cheesecake, chocolate cake, red velvet cake, carrot cake, coconut cake, pound cake, or whatever you like. Try baking it the old-fashioned way, the only way, until you get it right. It is worth it!

Pastry

Pastries scare me a little more, but I am going to master those, too. I am a chef and that is what cooking is all about: learning, cooking, and mastering. There are sweet and savory pastries: puff pastry, samosa pastry, shortcrust pastry, sable pastry, phyllo pastry, choux pastry, and more. Fill these puffs of happiness and enjoy.

Pies and Tarts

Here is where I shine the brightest. My pies are ‘to die for’, especially my fruit pies. My cherry pie will leave you speechless. Apple, chocolate, coconut, and berry pies and cream, peanut and almond tarts, they are all a wonderful end to supper.

Cookies

Cookies are harder to get right than people think. The thing to remember is – do not add to much flour because you cannot take any out. If you add too much your cookies will be too dry, and no one wants cookies that are too dry.

Custards

Oh, my, how I love custards! Pastry cream, flan, and lemon curd are a few favorites. Also, they are simple to make, just take your time so you do not scorch them.

Seafood

A look at different types of seafood.

The American Heart Association states that we should eat seafood two times per week because of their positive impact on our chances of heart disease.

An illustrative chart depicting the health benefits of seafood.

Fish

Bass is good for your thyroid. Tuna helps your heart, immune system, skin, and bones and lowers blood pressure; also, it prevents cancer and gives you energy. Salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids. It can reduce your risk or heart disease, reduce inflammation, and protect the health of your brain.

Roe

Caviar contains omega-3, which is known to help cultivate a healthy circulatory, nervous, and immune systems. It also has the RDI of vitamin B12.

Shellfish

Shrimp are full of vitamins D and B12, as well as protein and selenium, while prawns possess lots of protein calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and E. Oysters, scallops, and clams are full of healthy fats, proteins, and minerals.

Amphibians

Frog legs are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, potassium, and vitamin A.

Nuts

A look at various types of nuts.

Nuts are delicious. I love honey-roasted cashews and those pomegranate cashews – so delectable! They have the good kind of fat in them and lots of protein. I cook with pecans, walnuts, and almonds all the time.

An illustrative chart depicting the health benefits of nuts.

Herbs and Spices

A look at various herbs and spices.

What would I do without herbs and spices? As a chef, they make my world go ’round. If you don’t know how to use them well, there are plenty of books out there detailing how to use them to make your food scream ‘scrumptious’.

An illustrative chart depicting the health benefits of herbs and spices.

A plate of freshly-made vegan eggplant parmesan.

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A fresh plate of fruit-topped pancakes.

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