Main content start
Header Banner

Sport Nutrition Education No. II - Guidelines to a Healthful Diet

Back to Education Pamphlets

The Five Food Groups

Food Group Functions and Characteristics
1. Breads and Cereals 
(rice, noodle, pasta, bread, biscuit, cereal)
  • good source of carbohydrates, provide B vitamins and plantprotein.
  • whole grain products are good sources of dietary fibre.
  • provide energy.
2. Vegetables 
(all fresh, frozen and canned vegetables)
  • good source of beta carotene vitamins B, C, minerals and dietary fibre.
  • vegetables are low in fat.
  • prevent cancer.
3. Fruits 
(all fresh, frozen, canned fruits and fruit juices)
  • good source of carbohydrates, beta carotene, vitamins B, C, minerals and dietary fibre.
  • fruits are low in fat (except coconut and avocado).
4. Meat and Alternates 
(beef, pork, lamb, poultry, fish, egg, dried beans, tofu etc.)
  • both meats and beans are good sources of protein, iron and B vitamins, therefore, beans can substitute meats nutritionally.
  • meat products contain cholesterol but beans do not, beans also contain less fat than meats.
  • function as building blocks of tissues; manufacture and repair cells.
5. Milk and Dairy
Products (fresh milk, powdered milk, UHT packaged milk, yogurt, cheese etc.)
  • good source of protein, calcium, phosphorus and B vitamins, also provides carbohydrate and fat
  • best to choose low fat or skimmed milk
  • maintain healthy teeth and bones

Each food group provides unique nutrients and serves different functions in the body. To achieve nutritional balance, one must eat a variety of foods. A diet which is limited to a few foods will lead to nutritional deficiency.

Typical Hong Kong Chinese Eating Habit Is Not Desirable

  1. Meats as main food item at meals, but very little rice.
  2. Use too much oil in cooking e.g. pan-frying, deep fat frying, and use lots of seasoning.
  3. Frequently eat junk food, desserts, soft drinks, instant noodles, and preserved foods like luncheon meat, ham, sausage.
  4. Eat little vegetables, fruits and milk products.
  5. Eat and work at the same time, and eat out often.

The Proper Way of Eating Is As Follows

Healthy Eating Pyramid
Health Eating Pyramid

Other countries (like USA, UK and Australia) also use the food pyramid to promote healthful eating. The pyramid consists of four levels. Each food group has its own area and the size of each is different. Total food intake should be proportional to the area each group occupies in the pyramid. For example, the fats, salt and sugar group is on the top of the pyramid, and occupies the smallest area. Therefore, they should be used sparingly. On the other hand, the breads and cereals group is at the bottom and occupies the largest area. Therefore, these foods should be the foundation of our diets. Carbohydrates should provide 60 - 70 % of total energy intake in an athlete's diet. In order to reach this recommendation, athletes must eat more bread and cereal products, fruits, milk and root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, corns etc.

Diet Recommendation

No single food provides all the nutrients needed and no food is absolutely not allowed. However, there are foods which are better choices and some which are less desirable. The following charts provide recommendation on food choices.

Food Group Better Choices Eat less Often
Beverages low fat milk, skimmed milk, soymilk, calcium fortified soy milk, fresh fruit juice, yogurt drinks, sports drinks, water, balanced nutrition drinks (e.g. Ensure) soft drinks, coffee, tea, sweetened juices, whole milk, milkshake
Food Group Better Choices Eat less Often
Breads and Cereals rice, noodles, breads, oatmeal, congee,breakfast cereals, biscuits, whole wheat bread, steamed buns etc. Instant noodles, yee mein, cookies, fried donuts, croissant, French toast, Chinese sweet buns with filling, etc.
Vegetable all fresh vegetables potato chips, French fries, salted and preserved vegetables
Fruits all fresh fruits coconut milk, avocados; sweetened and preserved fruits
Meats, Beans and Bean Products all fresh or frozen lean meats: chicken, pork, beef, lamb, fish beans : red/mung beans, lima beans, kidney beans, lentils, soybeans etc; tofu, dehydrated tofu fatty meats, poultry skin, preserved meats like corned beef, luncheon meat, beef jerky, salted preserved fish, sausage, Chinese BBQ meats, eggs
Note : Eat no more than 3 egg yolks per week, but egg white is not included in this limit.
Milk and Dairy Products low fat/skimmed milk, low fat evaporated milk, yogurt, low fat cheese full cream milk, regular evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, cheese, ice cream
Note: Soybean milk contains little calcium, therefore, it cannot be used to substitute milk. If you have lactose intolerance (symptoms include stomachache and diarrhoea after drinking milk), you may eat other calcium-rich foods like: bones of canned fish, tofu (except packaged silken tofu), noodlefish, seafood (shrimp, oysters, scallops, sea cucumber), Chinese kale, broccoli, pak choi, soy milk fortified with calcium.

Follow these Eating Guidelines for Good Health

  1. Eat a variety of foods.
  2. Maintain a healthy body weight.
  3. Eat more fruits, vegetables and cereal products.
  4. Reduce your use of salted, preserved or sugary foods.
  5. If you drink alcohol, do so moderately.
  6. Drink enough fluids daily.

Food provides energy, eating wisely can help in bringing out your potential. American Olympic Gymnastics Gold Medallist, Trent Dimas said, "Successful athletes must be healthy, because they would not miss training due to sickness, are often energetic and don't get tired easily."

The above information is provided by the Sport Nutrition Unit of the Athlete and Scientific Services Division. All information is for reference only.

Reproduction of materials is welcome with prior permission. Acknowledgements are required.

For enquiry, please contact: 
Sports Science Department. Tel: 2681 6277

Hong Kong Sports Institute Limited

Hong Kong Sports Institute, 25 Yuen Wo Road,
Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2681 6888   Fax: (852) 2681 6330