The Five Food Groups
United States Department of Agriculture
“Choose Your Food Wisely,” United States Food Leaflet No. 4 (Washington, 1917-18)
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The USDA released its first nutrition recommendations in a Farmer’s Bulletin of 1894. In 1916, nutritionist Caroline Hunt authored a set of guidelines for young children which included the first mention of food groups. Hunt included five food groups: milk, meat, poultry and eggs; cereals and grains; butter and fats; vegetables and fruits; and sweets. These guidelines were re-released in 1917 as recommendations for adults, with the admonition, “You need some food from each group every day – don’t skip any.”
These guidelines remained in place through the 1920s, until the Depression and World War II caused the USDA to respond to changing eating habits. The food groups that are familiar today were not recommended until 1956. In 1992, the food groups were replaced by the Food Pyramid; and in 2011, the Food Pyramid was retired in favor of the newest guideline, MyPlate.