Food pyramid

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The Food pyramid is an excellent tool to help you make healthy choices from a variety of foods in order to give you the required nutrients and the suggested serving sizes to help you control the amount of calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar or sodium in your diet. It is not a rigid prescription but a general guide to a healthy diet.

Contents

Why should I be aware of this?

To give our body the nutrients it needs we have to provide it with enough calories every day in order for your body to have the nutrients it needs. Our individual need for calories depends on various factors such as age, sex, size, our activity level and whether or not we have any chronic illness

Calorie requirements

The National Academy of Sciences recommendations, many sedentary women and some older adults require 1,600 calories; children, teenage girls and active women need 2,200 calories while pregnant women may need around 500 more calories per day and an additional 300 calories if they are breast-feeding. Teenage boys, active men and very active women require 2,800 calories

Food pyramid and health

Food pyramid, created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides a model for healthy eating. The recent update in the pyramid have shifted emphasis to a diet high in protein. It is recommended that better health can be maintained if the average adult consumes less meat and more vegetables, fruits, and grains.

All about food pyramid

Base of the Pyramid

Bread, Grain, Cereal and Pasta is a low-fat meal plan which forms the base of the pyramid which provide complex carbohydrates, which are an important source of energy. Between 6 and 11 servings of these foods are required in a day, with each serving comprising the following:

1 slice of bread 1/2 cup of rice, cooked cereal or pasta 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal 1 flat tortilla

From this group try to eat whole-grain breads, cereal and pasta for most of your servings. Whole-grain foods (which are made with whole wheat flour) are less processed and retain more valuable vitamins, minerals and fiber than foods made with white flour.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables form the next level of the pyramid. Rich in nutrients, fruits and vegetables are are excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate or potassium. According to the Food Pyramid one needs to have 3 to 5 servings of vegetables and 2 to 4 servings of fruit each day.

One serving of vegetables can be:

1 cup of raw leafy vegetables 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or raw 3/4 cup of vegetable juice

One serving of fruit can be:

One medium apple, orange or banana 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked or canned fruit 3/4 cup of fruit juice

Beans, Eggs, Lean Meat and Fish

The Food Pyramid suggests 2 to 3 servings of cooked meat, fish or poultry. Each serving should be between 2 and 3 ounces. The following foods count as one ounce of meat:

One egg 2 tablespoons of peanut butter 1/2 cup cooked dry beans 1/3 cup of nuts

It is advisable to go for lean meat, fish and dry beans and peas often because these are the lowest in fat. Remove skin from poultry and trim away visible fat on meat. As nuts are hyigh in fats it is advisable to exercise moderation.

Dairy Products

Dairy and milk products provide calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals. The Food pyramid suggests 2 to 3 servings each day. Three servings are advised for teen agers or those 24 years or under, breastfeeding mothers or pregnant women. For most 2 servings daily are enough.

Fats and Sweets

Fats and sweets form the top of the food pyramid and should be eaten sparingly because they provide calories but not much in the way of nutrition. These foods include salad dressings, oils, cream, butter, margarine, sugars, soft drinks, candies and sweet desserts.

What can I do about it?

To use the Food pyramid effectively follow these simple steps:

  • Determine your calorie requirement
  • Translate your calorie requirement into daily food group allowances
  • Use the food group allowances to help you plan your meals and snacks
  • Record what you eat and check it against your daily allowances for each group
  • Use the Food Diary to record the areas where you are typically over your daily allowances
  • Try to alter the diet to be closer to your target

Fine-tuning the Food pyramid

You can finetune the pyramid by making choices which suit your specific needs. If you tend to be over-weight you may choose the category of meat which has lower fat content, though in thr food pyramid there may be no distinction made between hot dogs and lean chicken breast.

With experience you may find that some foods that do not fit your diet plan. For instance, pizza may not be the best choice if you are trying to cut down on carbohydrates and fat.

References

  • Food Guide Pyramid
  • USDA diet pyramid

See Also

Mike Adams' 'Honest Food Guide' a free download

Honest Food Guide