The Food Pyramid

By Nutrition Expert – Trupti Gurav,Mumbai

The Food Pyramid is designed to make healthy eating easier. It shows the different food groups and how much of each we need to have a healthy diet. Eating the right amount from each food group is called eating a “balanced” diet.

Balanced diet is a key to stay healthy. Follow the “Healthy Eating Food Pyramid” guide as you pick your food.

Eating well is important for all of us. In the short-term, it can help us to feel good, look our best and stay at a healthy weight. In the long-term, a healthy, balanced diet can reduce our risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers. [1]

Your body needs lots of different nutrients to stay healthy. That means eating a variety of foods from each of the main food groups.

Different foods have different nutritional values; it is not possible to obtain all the nutrients we need from a single food. According to the Healthy Eating Food pyramid, we have to eat a variety of foods among all food groups as well as within each group in order to get different nutrients and meet our daily need. [2]

To ensure optimal health, the United State Department of Agriculture started the Food Pyramid as a guideline for its citizens to make a choice of their food. This program started in 1992 with the help of researched nutritional knowledge in 2005 but ended in 2011. This program was beneficial to many nations and was regarded to be among the healthiest.

A food Pyramid is essentially a guide to healthy eating. It outlines the types of food we would require on a regular basis to maintain a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits for the same. The Food Pyramid has been adopted by many countries and regions of the world to allow citizens to formulate a healthy diet plan for themselves and their families. [3]

The food pyramid guidelines for healthy living are: [4]

  • Balancing diet with physical activity
  • Eating a variety of foods
  • Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and grain products
  • Eating foods low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Eating sweets in moderation
  • Eating salt in moderation
  • Limiting intake of alcohol.

In order to understand the Pyramid and how this will help in our understanding of the types and amounts of foods which we would eat, let us break down the Pyramid into its various components.

The healthy eating pyramid is divided into layers of differing size representing the five common food groups, from the base upward; [5]

  1. Fruits and Vegetables-Eat plenty of these, up to seven servings a day. Colorful veggies and fruits take the next levels which should add in diet to meet your daily dose of vitamins and minerals.
  2. Starchy food such as bread, cereals and potatoes -Have wholemeal cereals and breads, potatoes, pasta or rice with each meal. Wholegrain is best. Cereals, legumes, milk and milk products are at the base of the pyramid which should be eaten in adequate amounts to meet your daily needs of energy and protein. 
  3. Protein such as meat, fish, eggs, and beans – Have some meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts. Choose lean options and have fish at least twice a week.
  4. Dairy product – Have some milk, yogurt and cheese. Choose reduced-fat or low-fat.
  5. Fats and sugars- Have small amounts and choose unsaturated or reduced-fat options. At the top of the pyramid comes the highly processed foods which are loaded with sugars and fats are to be consumed sparingly.  
  6. The food guide pyramid also emphasis the importance of regular exercise, workouts and being physically active.

Above all, it is quintessential to take adequate amount of water as it is one of the key nutrients that keep you hydrated and maintain health. [6]

The recommended servings of each food group are expressed in ranges so that the pyramid can fit most members of a household. The number of servings chosen from each food group is based upon the number of calories a person needs.

A calorie is the amount of energy obtained from food. Most persons should always have at least the lowest number of servings for each group.
In general, the low to middle numbers of servings are appropriate for most women and the middle to upper numbers of servings are appropriate for most men.

Servings do not need to be measured for grain products, vegetables, and fruits but should be followed carefully when eating foods that contribute a significant amount of fat (meats, dairy, and fats used in food preparation). Persons who are dieting should reduce their fat intake and increase physical activity but not reduce the number of servings from each group.

The food pyramid is for normal adults, it does not take into consideration people with following-

  • Special dietary concerns or diseases and deficiencies or disorders.
  • Age groups specially children’s. 

Over the years several changes have been made in food pyramid as more facts on different food group 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 food that are needed and the amount that needs to be taken.



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