Nutrition Primer for Classrooms - Commonly Miscategorized Foods
Commonly Miscategorized Foods

Commonly Miscategorized Foods in the Food Groups

Consistent with USDA’s food grouping system at ChooseMyPlate.gov.

“Extras”: Foods that have few or no nutrients; not a food group.

Water: An important beverage to drink for hydration and in response to thirst; water does not belong to any food group, nor is it “extra.”

Popcorn and Pretzels: While many associate popcorn and pretzels with snack foods like chips, they are part of the Grains group. Popcorn is a whole grain and high in fiber; when eaten plain or with minimal additives, it is a healthy choice. Pretzels that are made with whole-wheat flour and are unsalted provide beneficial fiber with very little added sodium.

Tomatoes and Avocados: Botanically fruits, tomatoes and avocados are classified in the Vegetables group because they are most often eaten with, and prepared like, other vegetables.

Pickles: While pickles are made from cucumbers (a vegetable) the processing destroys some of the nutrients. The final product is not rich in nutrients and so becomes “extra,” not part of a food group.

Pudding and Ice Cream: When made with milk, pudding and ice cream belong in the Dairy group because of the high calcium content. They are considered a milk-based dessert, providing nutrients and also some added sugar.

Hot Cocoa: When made with milk, cocoa belongs in the Dairy group because of its high calcium content. This is not the case when it is made with water; then it is classified as “extra.”

Eggs: Many grocery stores put dairy and eggs together, but these foods belong to separate food groups. Eggs come from hens, are classified in the Protein group, and are a good source of protein.

Beans: Beans such as pinto, lima, and lentil are placed in 2 food groups because of their unique nutrient content: Vegetables and Protein. To simplify the food classification process for students, Dairy Council of California programs place beans only in the Protein group. This placement is particularly important for students who are vegetarian, eating beans as a primary source of protein and iron.

Fruit Rolls and Fruit Snacks: The high sugar content of most fruit-snack products makes them “extras.” It is always best to eat fresh, frozen, canned, or dried real fruits.

Bacon and Beef Jerky: Even though they are derived from meat, both count as “extras.” Bacon primarily provides fat, and beef jerky is high in sodium.

Tea/Coffee: Because they contain no calories or nutrients, these beverages are considered “extras.”

Non-Dairy Beverages: With the exception of fortified soy beverage, drinks made with almonds and other nuts, rice, or coconuts vary significantly in their nutrient content. These beverages often contain little to no protein or key nutrients characteristic of the Dairy group. Though they are not part of a food group, the Nutrition Facts label can confirm if a non-dairy beverage is a source of calcium and other nutrients.