Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Healthy Eating Based on the Food Guide Pyramid

The USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid places an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and grains. It's easy to use the pyramid to choose a healthy diet that meets your particular needs. Let's take a look at each of the food groups:

Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta
6-11 servings a day
These complex carbohydrates make up the base of the pyramid. They provide B-vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Try to steer clear of the more highly processed carbohydrates such as white bread and sugary cereals. Choose whole grain products whenever possible. They have more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than products made from processed white flour. They also hit your bloodstream more slowly, giving you a longer lasting source of fuel.

1 serving = 1 slice of bread, 1/2 bagel or bun, 1 ounce dry cereal, 1/2 cup cooked cereal, 1/2 cup cooked rice, 1/2 cup cooked pasta.

3-5 servings a day
Vegetables are a fantastic source of vitamins and fiber. They're also naturally low in fat and calories. Deep-yellow, or orange vegetables, like carrots and squash, are a great source of vitamin A. Veggies from the cabbage and pepper families (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bell peppers) are surprisingly rich in vitamin C.

1 serving = 1 cup raw leafy greens, 1/2 cup any other chopped vegetable, 3/4 cup vegetable juice

2-4 servings a day
Fruit makes a great snack or healthy dessert. It's high in carbohydrate energy and potassium, low in sodium, and full of vitamins. Strawberries, watermelon, and citrus fruits (like oranges and grapefruit) are full of vitamin C; apricots and other orange-colored fruits have lots of vitamin A; and cantaloupe, mangos and papayas have both vitamins A and C. Try to avoid juices sweetened with sugar or canned fruit in heavy syrup.

1 serving = 1 medium apple, banana, or orange; 1/2 cup chopped fruit or berries; 3/4 cup fruit juice.

Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese
2-4 servings a day
We've all heard that milk products are rich sources of calcium, but did you know that they're also loaded with protein? A glass of milk or a cup of yogurt has high-quality protein equal to an ounce of meat or cheese or to one egg. Try to choose reduced fat dairy products whenever possible. A glass of whole milk has the equivalent of two teaspoons of butter or three tablespoons of sour cream. That bit of added fat would probably be more enjoyable on a baked potato rather than hidden in your milk!

1 serving = 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1-1/2 ounces of natural cheese, 2 ounces of processed cheese.

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts
2-3 servings a day
This group is a major source of protein. Cooked beans are high in protein and fiber and low in fat. Tofu and white beans provide calcium. Almonds are good sources of vitamin E. Beef contains highly absorbable trace minerals like iron, zinc, and magnese. Poultry and seafood contribute vitamin B6, and pork is a rich source of thiamine.

1 serving = 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish; 1 egg; 1/2 cup cooked beans, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, nuts, or seeds.

Fats, Oils, and Sweets
Use sparingly
This group represents the tip of the pyramid. It includes butter, oils, margarine, sour cream, soda pop, candy, and sweet desserts. Remember, not all fats are created equal. You want to minimize saturated fats found in animal products like meat and dairy, and trans-fats found in margarine or fried snack foods (look out for "partially hydrogenated" anything). Focus instead heart-healthy unsaturated fats such as those found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado. Sweets should be minimized as well. It’s generally better to enjoy a really extravagant dessert once in a while than to fill your daily menu with "fat-free" sugary treats. These sweets still tend to be high in calories and pretty much devoid of nutritional benefits. One possible exception may be molasses, which provides a rich source of iron.

Now that we've covered all the basics, let's put it all together in a plan that's right for you. Here are some sample diets at 3 different calorie levels:

1,600 calories is appropriate for many sedentary women and some older adults.

Bread group servings . . . . . . . . . .6
Vegetable group servings . . . . . . .3
Fruit group servings . . . . . . . . . . .2
Milk group servings . . . . . . . . . . .2-3
Meat group (in total ounces) . . . . 5 oz.
Total fat (in grams) . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Total added sugars (in grams). . . .24

2,200 calories is about right for most children, teenage girls, active women and sedentary men. Women who are pregnant or breast feeding may need somewhat more.

Bread group servings . . . . . . . . . .9
Vegetable group servings . . . . . . .4
Fruit group servings . . . . . . . . . . .3
Milk group servings . . . . . . . . . . .2-3
Meat group (in total ounces) . . . . 6 oz.
Total fat (in grams) . . . . . . . . . . . 73
Total added sugars (in grams). . . .48

2,800 calories is good for teenage boys, many active men, and some very active women.

Bread group servings . . . . . . . . . .11
Vegetable group servings . . . . . . .5
Fruit group servings . . . . . . . . . . .4
Milk group servings . . . . . . . . . . .2-3
Meat group (in total ounces) . . . . 7 oz.
Total fat (in grams) . . . . . . . . . . . 93
Total added sugars (in grams). . . .72

Note: Women who are pregnant or breast feeding, teenagers, and young adults to age 24 should have 3 servings from the milk group.

If you are trying to lose weight, increase your activity level and reduce the empty calories in your diet. In particular, look out for lots of highly processed carbohydrates such as commercial snack foods, white bread, regular soda, and large servings of fat-free treats. Remember that fat-free doesn’t mean calorie-free! Try to replace these foods with hearty whole grains, sprouted breads, steel cut oats, and other more nutrient dense sources of carbohydrate.

If you are trying to gain weight, eat more servings from all the food groups and be sure to stay active. You can insure that most of what you gain is lean muscle by sticking to a low-fat, adequate-protein, and higher calorie diet in conjunction with weight training.

For most people it's not necessary to actually measure each serving of food. The serving sizes are given only as a general guideline. For mixed foods you can estimate the food group servings of the main ingredients.

For example, a cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato would be: 2 bread (each half of the bun), 1 meat (the burger itself), 1 dairy (the cheese), and 1 vegetable (the lettuce and tomato.)

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