Food pyramids were your must-know science figures back in higher secondary school. However, not many of us could crack the science behind them. The secret to a healthy life is good eating habits, and the secret to good eating habits is to follow the food pyramid. It is a visual representation quantifying the types of food to consume. It is a tool used to educate people about nutrition. If you are into sustainable and healthy eating habits, you may have come across this fancy-looking diagram.
But what does it mean? What is the history, statistics, information, and how do you follow it? Let us figure out all these answers!
History of The Pyramid
The USDA first introduced a Food Guide Pyramid in 1992. They aimed to encourage healthy eating habits that benefit both the population and the environment. The pyramid was deliberately simple and had layman terms for ease in understanding. The shape of the pyramid suggested more food consumption in the large layers at the bottom as opposed to the small layers as you progress upward in the pyramid. In 1999, a version for kids was available as well. Soon adaptations followed for senior citizens and the vegetarian population.
This pyramid went under various testing by nutritionists checking the validity and authenticity of the pyramid. Further research led to more versions of this pyramid. It has also been adapted from country to country and region to region. Today, there are Asian and Mediterranean food guides as well to include ethnic food.
In 2005, an updated version called MyPyramid was released. In 2011, further to the Food Guide Pyramid, a nutrition guide called MyPlate was released by USDA. There is also a national nutrition month for awareness now.
Contents of the Food Pyramid
Now that ADA and USDA have certified it for developing eating habits that will benefit you: let’s dive into the details of the food guide. However, it is essential to note that these guidelines are general, and should you seek to follow them, consult your nutritionist for a proper diet plan following this pyramid. Your meal plan should cater to your needs and consider your physical and mental health. You can also add your likes and dislikes.
The Grain Group
It is the base of the pyramid. It includes everything from cereals to wholegrain foods such as bread or tortillas. Anything containing a maximum amount of carbohydrates should constitute a primary portion of the diet since carbohydrates break down to glucose: the primary source of body energy. It also includes pasta, rice, and bread.
It is also imperative to know the word serving. It differs from food to food as different food items have different energy. For example, if you eat one slice of bread or half a cup of boiled rice or pasta, both have equal amounts of energy, even if they vary in quantities. They are also defined as one serving.
Usually, servings are present on the labels of the food packets you purchase. In case they are not listed, a simple web search will bring you the necessary information. It may differ from webpage to webpage, however, only by the slightest.
The Fruit and Vegetable Group
As you move upward from the grain group, you will find the next part of the pyramid divided into two parts: the vegetable and the fruits. Both are important and should be consumed in equal amounts daily to facilitate your vitamin and mineral levels of the body. Two to four servings of each group should be consumed daily, totaling six to seven of both. Eat three fruits and two vegetables per day. Incorporate them into your daily meals by making salads or having them as a side with your daily carbohydrate food.
The Protein and Dairy Group
This next level of the pyramid divides into two parts. One is dairy which includes anything ranging from cheese and butter to simple forms of food such as milk. One cup of yogurt or milk is one serving. On the other hand, for cheese, the serving will vary depending on the type of cheese (cheddar, mozzarella) and nature (processed or unprocessed). Food guide pyramids recommend two to three servings of dairy daily.
The other group is the protein group, which has all and every type of meat. It also has other sources of protein, such as beans and nuts. The cap on them is similar to that of the dairy group. One serving counts as two to three ounces of cooked lean meat, fish, or poultry. It would approximately equal the size of a full deck of cards. Hence, for dinner, make sure your one-plate serving does not increase more than the size of the deck of cards. It will help you keep your meat consumption under control and give you space for those vegetables or fruits at your table.
Avoid eating meat in general, and if you do not want to, eat organic to discourage slaughterhouses and animal cruelty. Grain and eggs are recommended substitutes by dieticians to diversify your source of protein.
The Fats, Oils, and Sweets Group
The last and the highest placed group in the pyramid is the most consumed group by many. From fast food to carbonated drinks to your favorite chocolates, all of these are highly discouraged by health organizations. You can not even have one serving a day!
As suggested by the ADA, a healthy person should not consume items containing fats, oils, or sweets sparingly. We recommend having one serving of these every few days. They contain both calories and fats, which are not great for you if you have a light workload.
It is better to pick food items with the lowest fat content from this section. Why is this section so highly discouraged? Is it because these health associations do not want you to have your delicious cheeseburger? If you look at the statistics, one person dies every 36 seconds because of cardiovascular diseases. A certain level of fat is good for your body, especially if you live in colder areas. However, most people tend to overconsume, which leads to fatty deposits in arteries, subsequently leading to heart issues.
While there is no doubt that food is the essential body intake after air, one should always be mindful of approaching their meal plans practically. If you plan on following the food pyramid, make sure to do your research. Use mobile apps that list out recommended servings and portions. You need to eat the right food with the right amount.List foods from each category that you like. Try out recipes to mix and match the food you would like to incorporate in your daily meal plan. Limit your sugar content to special occasions such as birthdays or weddings.
In the 21st century, few people have time to spend and curate their meal plans, especially for themselves. However, it is essential to realize the importance of it. Unhealthy eating habits can cause problems in your daily life. Lastly, do not pressure yourself to change your eating habits instantaneously. They took years to develop and will take time to change. Take it one step at a time.