First established by the USDA in the 1960's the food pyramid is a basic outline for healthy eating. The pyramid was chosen since it was recognised that not all foods should be consumed in equal quantities. Therefore eating the proper combinations of food is necessary in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Using the food pyramid to guide your diet will allow you to:
Provide your body with the proper nutrients it needs
Helps you regulate the number of calories you consume (aids in weight control)
Limits your intake of unnecessary fats and sugars
It should be noted that a healthy lifestyle involves more than just diet alone, regular exercise is also very important.
The food pyramid is composed of four levels, which contain the 6 basic food groups. These are distributed in the food pyramid as follows:
The base - Composed of breads and grains
Second Level - Composed of fruits and vegetables
Third Level - Contains milk & dairy, and proteins (meat, poultry, beans & nuts)
Top - Made up of fats and oils
The base of the pyramid, being the largest section, is where the majority of your diet should come from. On a daily basis, your diet should consist of 6 - 11 servings per day of grains. Whole grains are the best, since the more processed the grain is, the more nutritional value is lost. Preferred foods from this group include whole grain breads, cereal, rice and pasta.
The second level, and the next largest portion of your daily diet, consists of fruits and vegetables. How many times growing up did your mother tell you to finish your vegetables. You should have listened to mom, since you need to consume 3 - 6 servings of vegetables, and 2 - 4 servings of fruits daily. Fruits and vegetables provide your body with fiber, vitamins and the essential minerals it needs. Vegetables with the highest nutritional impact are dark in color: such as dark leafy greens, or orange (carrots). Fruit juices are not fruits. They contain mostly sugar and are of limited nutritional value.
The milk & dairy, and protein level provides your body with calcium, protein (obviously), iron and zinc. All of which are essential to the formation of strong bones and muscles. You should have 2 - 3 servings daily from both of these groups. When choosing proteins, select lean cuts of meat and poultry. Milk (and dairy products) should be either low-fat or fat-free.
The very top of the pyramid, being the smallest section, represents those foods that should be eaten only sparingly since they are of very limited nutritional value. It is however possible, to get more out of this group by incorporating selections from the protein group. Fish and nuts contain the healthier unsaturated fats, which are also found in vegetable oils. Try to avoid the 'bad' (saturated) fats that are found in butter, margarine, shortening and lard.
By using the USDA food pyramid as a guide you can see that a typical meal should be ~35% grains, ~20% vegetables, and ~15% each of fruits, proteins, milk & dairy, with limited amounts of fats and oil. This basic outline can be used to establish a habit of healthy eating.
I'm Mark and as the father of twins, making sure my kids eat healthy is very important. Without the proper nutrition they won't be able to grow up strong and healthy. Helping them to develop good eating habits now will make it easier for them maintain a healthy lifestyle as they grow older.
If you enjoyed this article, go to prepare healthy meals for kids, for more information and recipes. You can also find additional information on recipes, kitchen appliances, nutrition, and more on my blog at http://homechefcookingtips.com/