Eating a balanced diet is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it can be very difficult to know exactly what to look for when choosing foods. The good news is that a number of different tools are available to consumers to help them make the right choices. The Food Guide Pyramid is one of these tools and is a pictorial representation of what makes up a healthy diet. Familiarize yourself with the Food Guide Pyramid, and learn more about maintaining a balanced diet.
Contents of the pyramid. The Food Guide Pyramid shows the different food groups that make up a healthy, balanced, daily diet. The largest consumption should be from the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group, from which you should consume six to 11 servings a day. The smallest amount of daily consumption should be from the fats, oils and sweets food group, which should be used sparingly. Consume between three and five servings of fruit and vegetables daily, as well as two to three servings of proteins (including meat, fish, eggs and poultry) and dairy (yogurt, cheese, milk) for the optimum healthy diet.
Importance of a varied diet. The food groups represented in the Food Guide Pyramid each represent ingredients that provide the different nutrients, vitamins and minerals that your body needs. While some of these can be found in more than one group, some vitamins or minerals are found in much higher concentrations in one food group than another. Calcium (for healthy teeth and bones), for example, is a key ingredient of dairy products, whereas fiber (essential for healthy digestion) can be found in certain breads, cereals, rice and pasta.
Definition of a serving. Understanding the definition of a serving is important to ensure that the contents of the Food Guide Pyramid are consumed in the right quantities. One serving of a dairy product, for example, is equal to one cup of milk or yogurt, or 2 ounces of processed cheese. It is vital to be aware of the different quantities that make up a serving to ensure that you meet the requirements of the Food Guide Pyramid appropriately.
Pros and cons. The Food Guide Pyramid is a simple, effective visual guide to healthy eating that can be used with children or adults. It offers an easy-to-understand representation of the relative proportions of each food type that your body requires. There is a risk, however, that the pyramid misrepresents the need for balance, by suggesting that the base food group (bread, cereal, rice and pasta) should be consumed before the others. The U.S. government has now moved toward using a plate-shaped guide in the same way, as this better represents the balance required between the food groups. The Food Guide Pyramid also misrepresented the relative proportions of the different food groups, as it was based on outdated scientific data. As such, according to Harvard School of Public Health, the Food Guide Pyramid was retired in 2005.