The Food Pyramid: What is it and Where are you on the Healthy Diet Pyramid?
Before starting to eat your meal you should check your plate to see what’s in it. Do you think that your meal is nutritionally balanced? Think back at your meals from yesterday and try to remember how many servings of grains, vegetables, fruits, meat and fats were in your meals.
If your answer does not include 6-11 servings of carbohydrates, 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2- 4 servings of fruit, 2 -3 servings of dairy, 2 – 3 servings of protein and just a few fats and sweets, then you might consider that you are not eating well. In this case, you should start using the Healthy Diet Pyramid as a guide for your daily diet.
For example, The Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid includes 4 groups of foods: grains; vegetables & fruits; dairy; meats and other foods (fats and oil and sugary foods).
Level 1: The grains & cereals food group includes any grain foods, both whole grains (and whole wheat) foods, plus the refined grains. The best choices are whole grains, because they provide an excellent source of complex carbohydrates. Considering age, gender and individual needs, there should be around 6-11 servings/day (10-11 servings for adult men; 8-9 servings for adult women). One serving may be 1 bowl of rice (100g), 2 slices of bread (60g), 4 plain biscuits, 1 large potato (180 g), 1 cup plain cornflakes (40g). Rice comes first because it is rich in complex carbs and fiber.
Level 2: The vegetables & fruit group includes foods that come from different parts of plants, including the leaves, roots, tubers, flowers, stems, seeds, shoots, and, of course, fruits. Most vegetables are good sources of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber. You should have each day 2-3 of servings of fruits and almost the same amount of vegetables. One serving means 1 small apple, orange, pear or mango (130g), 1 glass pure fruit juice (250ml), 150g raw leafy vegetables, 100g raw non-leafy vegetables.
Level 3: Dairy, also called milk products, is typically a smaller category in nutrition guides. Milk products provide proteins, vitamins and minerals. Milk, yogurt and cheese are filled with calcium. Most of your choices should be fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
Level 4: Meats include red meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts. They supply proteins, iron, zinc, B vitamins. Beans, eggs and nuts are similar to meats in protein intake and vitamins. 2 or 3 serving per day from this group should be enough. One serving is 1 palm-sized piece fish, lean meat or skinless poultry (90g), 1 cup of cooked lentils, peas, beans etc (120g), 3 eggs (150g).
The top of the pyramid: The little extra that comes on the top of the food pyramid includes fats, oils and sweets. They all should be used in small amounts.
Now that you remembered all these things about food groups and the Healthy Diet Pyramid, look again to your lunch menu and choose again. Do not aim for the top of the pyramid, but for its bottom. To make the thing even easier, use for guiding some other tips like:
- Balance calories.
- Enjoy your food, but eat less.
- Avoid oversized portions.
- Eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains (stay on first 2 levels of the pyramid).
- Choose low fat diary.
- Make half of your grains, whole grain.
- Cut back on foods high in solid fats, sugar and salt.
- Choose foods lower in sodium.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
You can now proceed with your lunch. Enjoy!
Resources and references:
- US Department of Agriculture, “Ten tips to a great plate ”
- cereals – oats, wholewheat, rye
- rice – brown, wild, basmati, jasmine
- pasta – corn, wholewheat,
- noodles – buckwheat, soy, wheat, rice