To help people eat a healthier, more well balanced diet, the Food Guide Pyramid was created as a general guideline for one to follow in order to make the best choices from the many types of foods available today. While it’s not intended to be a rigid outline that must be followed to the letter, it is in place to provide a way to choose the right foods and maintain a healthy weight all throughout life and has been the result of a century’s worth of scientific study and testing.
Using the pyramid as a basis for your choices, begin with plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains including cereal and bread, then add two to three servings of dairy, and the same from the meat group.
Breads, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta
This category includes grains from two different subgroups, either whole or refined, and examples include pastas, cereals, wheat products, cornmeal, oats, and barley. Look for breads, cereals, rice and pasta with little added sugars or fats, and be sure to enjoy these items with equally healthy toppings like low-fat milk or butter.
To get the right amount of fibre your body needs to function properly, eat six to eleven different servings of whole grains per day.
The recommended daily amount of fruits is two to four servings, and any type of fruit or fruit juice that’s 100% real fruit is acceptable. Fruit can either be whole and fresh, or canned, frozen, or dried. They can also be prepared in any number of delicious ways including mixed with other fruits, cut up, pureed, or mixed with gelatin.
Whole fruit is best as it contains the most fibre, but steer clear of fruits canned in heavy syrups or artificially sweetened juices.
Vegetables are actually broken down into five different subgroups which are determined by their nutritional content and any type, whether it’s raw, whole, frozen, fresh, or canned constitutes as a vegetable. Juice, provided it’s completely from real vegetables, also falls into this category that should be broken down into three to five different servings per day.
Try to include a large variety of vegetables in your diet, including dark green leafy vegetables as well as legumes which are excellent for protein and can be a great substitute for meat.
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Beans, Eggs, and Nuts
Two to three servings of lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs or nuts per day is the ideal. Poultry should be eaten without the skin and choose the leanest cuts of meats with the lowest fat content possible and prepare it by broiling, boiling, or roasting, which are the best ways to cook away some of the fat.
Most types of fish and some nuts contain healthy fats and oils, so opt for these instead of red meats, but beware that some nuts and seeds are indeed high in unhealthy fats and should be eaten in moderation.
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese
Aim for two to three servings in this category of the food pyramid and choose skim or low-fat milk and cheeses, and non-fat yogurts. These types of foods are important for giving us the calcium we need, but many are also rather high in fat, making it imperative to read labels carefully.
A serving size of these kinds of foods would be an eight ounce container of yogurt, or one to two ounces of cheese depending on the type, or an eight ounce glass of milk.
Fats, Oils, and Sweets
Items in this category should always be used sparingly, making it a point to limit those containing animal fats and reducing the amount sugar and sweet foods and drinks consumed. Oils can be in everything from plant life to animals and fish, and some are much healthier than others. Solid fats, which are in a solid state at room temperature, are among the most unhealthy, as well as oils that are hydrogenised.
Equally as unhealthy as fats and oils are sweets, including desserts, candies, and soft drinks. Limit these items while concentrating on foods from the fruits, vegetables, and grains categories first and foremost.