'Food' or 'Foods'? Which One Is Correct? | Mastering Grammar

(Last Updated: 22 February 2024)

One of the rules that you may have learnt in your English class is that food is an uncountable noun, so it cannot be used in the plural, and it never takes the indefinite article a. However, is this really true? 

Food or Foods: Which One Is Correct?

When referring to food in general, we use food as an uncountable noun:

We cannot survive without food.
We cannot survive without foods.

Everyone deserves access to clean food and water.
Everyone deserves access to clean foods and water.

Our mum always cooks more food than we can eat.
Our mum always cooks more foods than we can eat.

However, when talking about specific kinds of food, we can use food as a countable noun:

You can find meat, dairy products, and other foods in this supermarket.

An appetiser is a food that you eat before the main part of a meal.

I'm allergic to a lot of foods. I can't eat nuts, cheese, soy, and many other things.

✅ Lycopene is a natural compound found in many foods.

Examples from the Media

A deputy mayor in a city in northeastern China has apologised after residents complained about a lack of food and essentials during the lockdown imposed to contain the latest coronavirus outbreak. South China Morning Post (2021)

With many of us still working from home with easy access to food, weight gain has anecdotally been a common side effect of lockdown. The Sydney Morning Herald (2020)

"Growing culturally appropriate food is an opportunity to provide foods that are familiar to the diaspora," SaSa Naturals' Kristine Watts says, "but it also allows other people who are not familiar with certain foods to partake in the rich diversity that Toronto offers." Toronto Star (2022)

School meals should become a core part of learning, Mellor added, with pupils encouraged to try new, healthier foods and learn food skills, including cooking, with catering funded accordingly so more fresh food is available. The Guardian (2022)

Recommended Further Reading

'Fish' or 'Fishes'?
'Noodle' or 'Noodles'?
Pizza: Countable or Uncountable?

Real-World Examples of Misuse

1. It is common to simply state that you are going to practise the piano.
2. We use fewer with countable nouns and less with uncountable nouns. Sugary foods refer to specific types of food with high sugar content, such as cakes, biscuits, and sweets. If you say less sugary food, you are implying that you are going to reduce the sugar content across your diet generally—e.g. eating less jam on your toast.
3. A Scout is a member of the Scouts (an organisation).

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