Do You Know Your
Basic Nutrition?

Basic Nutrition 101


The first thing you need to know about nutrition is that it's a science. That being said...

...what we believe to be true one day can change the next...with the publication of the latest scientific study. That's why nutritional advice can seem so confusing!

But relax...there's no need to try and understand it all. Just grasp a few basic nutrition principles and you'll be well on your way to healthy eating and/or losing weight.

Any discussion of nutritious eating must include the 3 basic nutrients:

  • carbohydrate
  • protein
  • fat

Chances are you've heard of these!

Well, just like you can put different kinds of fuel in your car (unleaded, premium unleaded), you can put different kinds of fuel in your body. Each of the nutrients fuels you in the form of calories:

  • Carbohydrate = 4 calories/gram
  • Protein = 4 calories/gram
  • Fat = 9 calories/gram

Please note: Fat is twice as fattening as protein and carbs. (9 calories per gram for fat, 4 calories per gram for the others.)

This fact fueled the fat free craze of the 90's, when everyone was shunning fat and satisfying their urges by binging on boxes of fat free cookies in their desperate attempts to lose weight and satisfy their cravings.

Well we all know how well that didn't work! Fat free cookies still have calories, and even fat-free calories matter!

So here's a basic nutrition principle you need to remember:

Foods are grouped into one of 6 food groups...

...according to the balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat grams they contain. In other words, foods are classified based on the nutrition they provide. Foods in the same food group have a similar number of grams of carbohydrate, protein and fat.

When you read a food label, you can see just how many grams of each a particular food has.

Here's a summary of the each of the 6 food groups:

cartoon toaster

Starchy foods (grains) are composed primarily of carbohydrates, but still have small amounts of protein and trace amounts of fat.

Fruits are composed solely of carbohydrates.

Vegetables consist of carbohydrates and - believe it or not - some protein!

Milk and yogurt have carbohydrates, protein, and maybe fat, depending on which variety is used (nonfat, lowfat, full fat).

The protein (aka "meat and beans") group contains foods that you typically think of as providing solely protein, such as beef, poultry, and fish...even though they usually contain some fat as well.

The fat group contains foods, such as butter and oil, that have no carbohydrates or protein. They are 100% fat.

There you have it...the ABCs of basic nutrition!

Class dismissed.

Basic Nutrition: A Closer Look At The Food Groups.

The Healthy Eating page.

Your Personal Nutrition Guide home.