Food Pyramid explained

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Feb 24, 2011

There are several ways to show a healthy-eating plan, but in most guidelines it's often found in the shape of a pyramid—the food pyramid. Food pyramids show the various food groups and food choices that should be eaten, and the approximate servings from each group that has to be eaten to form the foundation of a healthy diet.


Over the years several changes have been made in the food pyramid as more facts on different food groups have been discovered. The whole idea of using a food pyramid is so that people can take a quick look and understand the concept of various foods that are needed and the amount that needs to be taken---like the stripes for grains, fruits, and vegetables are thicker to stress their importance where as the stripes for oils and meats are thinner as they should be eaten in moderation. However you should consider the pyramid as a guide to good nutrition, and not as a set of unbending rules.


The food pyramid is a guide to good nutrition for an average adult, and does not take into consideration people with special dietary concerns or children.


The food pyramid plan


The food pyramid was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are several other pyramids like the Asian, Latin American, Mediterranean and Vegetarian diet pyramids, and the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid. But the basic principle of all the food pyramids is similar.


In most pyramids the base is made up of foods that should form the bulk of your healthy diet (like the cereals and grains) and the foods that should be eaten in smaller amounts or less frequently (like meat, sweets and oils) are shown in the smaller sections of the pyramid. MyPyramid is an exception to this. In this pyramid the food groups are shown side by side instead of stacked. To ensures that you get all the necessary nutrients and other substances that promote good health eat a varied diet or foods from all the groups.


Although there are variations in the different food pyramid, the basic emphasis of all the pyramids is

  • Eat plenty of plant based foods, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Intake of animal foods should be limited. Animal foods are rich in cholesterol.
  • Prefer healthy vegetable oils (it contains mono and poly-unsaturated fats) rather than saturated and trans fats.
  • Limit intake of sweets and salt.
  • Intake of alcoholic beverages should be limited, if at all.
  • Control portion sizes
  • Do not take more calories than required as even proteins and carbohydrates taken in excess are converted to fats and stored in the body.
  • Physical activity should be a part of your daily routine. 

How to use food pyramids


To see if your diet matches up to as recommended by a food pyramid make a food diary. Then compare if your diet comes from the various groups as advised in the pyramid. If not then make changes to your eating pattern and try to bring your diet to match as recommended by the food pyramid.


Some simple practices that can help you to get and stay on track

  • Try to eat a variety of foods from each major food group. This will ensures that you eat a balanced and nutritious diet which contains all the protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber you need.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, try to include food items from whole grains
  • Take serving as recommended in the pyramid as this will prevent intake of excess calories.
  • Try to make your food tasty and interesting as this ensures that you will follow the recommendations. Explore new recipes. 

The Food Pyramid for Nutrition Guidance: Portion Size


Besides following the rec...

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