The Food Pyramid and You
By Reggie Liggins –
The food pyramid is the basis of a good and balanced diet for every man, woman and child. It is also the vital foundation for those who are very active, like athletes and strength trainers.
It may sound complicated but it is designed to make sure that you get a wide variety of foods and all of the right vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy body, no matter what age you are.
There are six groups of food which should make up the diet, with a small allowance for treats and sweets (which should be kept to a minimum).
So what are these groups?
1 The Grains
This group covers a wide range of very different foods, but all of them start off as grains. They include: cereals, bread, pasta, couscous and rice. All of these are high in carbohydrates which gives you energy and more than half of your daily calorie allowance should be made up from these. This means eating between 6 and 8 ounce servings of grains every day, with a slice of bread or a half a bagel being a single serving.
To get the most benefit, always choose wholegrain options instead of refined products as these add extra nutrients and lots of roughage to make you feel great.
Vegetables are nature’s pharmacy and are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Nearly all vegetables are very low in calories and you can include a large amount in your daily diet, with at least 2 1/2 to 3 cups being recommended for an adult. When it comes to leafy vegetables a one cup serving is actually two cupfuls of uncooked veg.
Aim to eat some vegetables from all of the different colors available over the course of a week. So include some broccoli, some cauliflower, some red bell pepper, carrots, beetroot and tomatoes to get a good mix.
Fresh is the best, but frozen and canned are good substitutes or you can even drink vegetable juices and still get a lot of the benefits.
Fruits are also packed with great nutrition, but they contain a lot more sugar and so you should aim to eat between 1 1/2 to 2 cups a day from this group. Again, go for loads of color and variety to make your diet interesting and fun.
4 Meat / Beans
Meat and beans are high in protein and you need to eat between 5 1/2 and 6 ounces every day.
For meat eaters, low fat options include chicken, fish and turkey but red meat is also good, as long as it is lean with little visible fat.
Non-meat eaters also have a great number of options including beans, nuts, seeds and eggs.
It is a myth that a very high protein diet is desirable. In the short term it may help you to lose weight quickly, but too much protein is bad for the body and if a high protein diet is followed for a long time, this has serious health implications.
A good diet should include around 3 cups of milk and dairy products every day and are vital for good bone health. Low and non-fat options are preferable.
In the case of hard cheese, 1 1/2 oz. is regarded as being the equivalent of a cup.
A small amount of oil, 5 to 7 teaspoons, is needed in the daily diet. There are many types of oils but most of the daily allowance can come from oil rich foods such as nuts, fish, mayo or soft margarine.
The “treats” are not officially the seventh group but you are allowed some treats as long as you haven’t used up your whole calorie allowance for the day. If you have 150 calories left over you can treat yourself to a nice glass of wine or a medium sized candy bar.
So forget the fad diets – follow the principals of the food pyramid and you will achieve and maintain your ideal weight the healthy way.
Filed under: Nutrition
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