The food pyramid was developed in Sweden in the early to mid 1970’s to demonstrate standards for daily nutrition. In the early 1990’s, the United States government began creating their own food guidelines. You can view an example at lifeclinic.com. The pyramid continues to improve as new studies provide new information. These guidelines tell the recommended daily doses of each food group to help our nation stay healthy. These suggestions are made for the average American. Special needs may apply for each unique circumstance. You can develop a customized food pyramid just for you on the website at mypyramid.gov .
GET RID OF JUNK FOOD
If you want to eat healthy using the food pyramid for guidelines, the first thing to do is to get rid of your junk food. Next, stock your cupboard with foods from the five food groups. These clusters are named the grains group, the vegetable group, the fruit group, the dairy group, and the protein group. The higher the location of the cluster on the pyramid, the less you need to eat to stay healthy. The top of the pyramid with the least recommended servings is the fat, oil and sweets group. The bottom of the pyramid is grains, which are recommended at every meal.
If you are looking to the food pyramid for weight loss, some other tips include a food journal, a support system and taking pictures of yourself to track progress. Ask friends and family to encourage healthy eating using the food pyramid and ask them to keep the junk away from you. Use a notebook to record everything you eat. This will help you to understand if your portion sizes are too large and identify trouble foods. There may even be a correlation between stressful times and an increase in poor eating habits. Identifying these habits will help you break them. Take a picture once a month for comparison. View more healthy tips at www.hsph.harvard.edu.
The grains food group consists of any bread, cereal, rice and pasta. The recommended daily dosage of these foods includes between six and eleven servings. Whole grains are recommended over refined grains. A serving of these includes one slice of bread, cup of cooked rice, oatmeal and pasta, of an English muffin or pita, 1 6-inch corn or flour tortilla, or1 cup of dry cereal.
The vegetable food group consists of any vegetables including green leafy ones, carrots, radishes, cabbage and eggplant. The definition of a vegetable is undecided, but we generally consider a vegetable to be savory rather than sweet like fruits. When we use the term vegetable, it can refer to any part of a plant including the stem, leaves, flower, stalk, bulb or root. The recommended daily dose of these is between three to five servings. A serving includes cup of cooked or raw vegetables, cup of vegetable juice or 1 cup of salad. In newer variations of the pyramid, servings of vegetables are not limited.
The fruit food group consists of any fruits including apples, oranges, bananas, blueberries, and grapes. The differentiating characteristic between a fruit and a vegetable is that a fruit is the reproductive part of the plant. We generally eat the fleshy, seed bearing element. This is the part that tends to be sweet. The recommended daily dosage of these foods includes between two to four servings. A serving includes cup of chopped, raw fruit or 1 medium whole fruit.
The dairy food group consists of any milk, cheese and yogurt. The recommended daily dosage of these is three servings. The USDA has shown that three servings of dairy daily has greater benefits in weight loss over just cutting down on calories. A serving includes 1 cup of low fat milk, 1 ounces of regular or low fat cheese, 8 ounces of yogurt or 4 ounces of cottage cheese.
The protein group consists of any meat, poultry, dry beans, eggs, nuts, legumes and tofu. The recommended daily dosage of these is between two to three servings. Lean meats, such as fish and chicken breast are the most highly recommended sources of protein. A serving includes 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, 1 egg or 1 cup of dry beans.
The fat, oil and sweets group includes fried food, dessert and sugars. These should be used sparingly. There have been benefits found from using olive oil and chocolate. Adding sugar and butter to your food and any other additives that are high in fat and sugar should be done in moderation to keep your body healthy. In newer versions of the pyramid red meat is included in this category.
In addition to these guidelines, taking a daily multivitamin is recommended along with exercise. One to two glasses of red wine or beer a day has also been shown to have health benefits. There are many variations of the food pyramid including pyramids for ethnic cultures and vegetarian diets. Here are sites that may provide you with alternative information:
THE OLD FOOD PYRAMID
The food pyramid that is known as the official USDA food pyramid was changed in the spring of 2005 because they wanted to better convey the example of how to stay healthy. The old food pyramid was used much the same as the new one is, where you should eat more of the foods at the bottom of the pyramid, and work your way up, eating less of those close to the top. The old food pyramid had six sections, beginning at the very bottom with Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta group. Of this group you were supposed to eat six to eleven servings, and it didn’t separate white bread and pastas from whole grains. Above that were the Fruit and Vegetable groups. You were instructed to eat two to four servings of fruits, and three to five servings of vegetables, again, these were very general terms. The third tier of the old food pyramid consisted of the Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese group, and the Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dried Beans, Eggs, and Nuts group. The chart indicated to eat two to three servings each of these two groups. At the top was Fats, Oils, and Sweets, which were just directed to be used sparingly, and indicated no guidelines for what fit into that category. The old food pyramid also didn’t include anything about exercise, or alcohol consumption, thus leaving that up to the consumer.
OTHER FORMS OF THE FOOD PYRAMID
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
This diet is a different spin on the food pyramid. To incorporate the ideas of the Mediterranean Diet into your daily life, you simply need to make olive oil your primary source of fat, incorporate plant based foods such as fruits, vegetables, breads, grains, and nuts, eat low to moderate amounts of fish, poultry, cheese, and yogurt, and drink a moderate amount of wine (one or two glasses a day)
The Asian Diet Pyramid
This diet is a representation of a healthy Asian diet, which is growing in popularity in the United States. The basis of this diet is eating more variation in food, mingled with food found more frequently in Asia. Some of the foods encouraged in this pyramid are rice, pineapple, bananas, mangos, cabbage, carrots, bok choy, bamboo shoots, soy beans, dried beans, miso, tofu, fish, and eggs. Alcohol may also be consumed in moderation, but isn’t recommended.
The Latin American Diet Pyramid
The Latin American Diet is a variation of the diet pyramid, and reflects the traditional diet of the areas of Latin America. The diet consists of more starches and less meats, with fruits and vegetables being important as well. Some of the basic foods found on the chart that Americans might not be used to are taro, arepas, quinoa, malanga, amaranth, cassava, yucca, cacao, tamarind, breadfruit, kale, cactus, tomatillos, and red meat is used sparingly.
The Vegetarian Diet Pyramid
The Vegetarian Diet Pyramid is exactly what it sounds like, a complete absence of meat, poultry, or fish in the diet. It is based on multiple servings a day from the three mini Fruits and Vegetables, Whole Grains, Legumes, and Beans pyramids. There’s attention to consuming foods from all of the mini pyramids, and daily consumption of good water as well as exercise to maintain good health.
The Low Carb Diet Pyramid
The low carb diet pyramid focuses on meat, low carb fruits and vegetables, and extremely limited portions of whole grain carbs. Dairy provides extra calcium. As always, make sure to drink plenty of water.