The Healthy Eating Pyramid
Have you ever heard of the Healthy Eating Pyramid? Do you implement the guidance from it into your eating habits? Follow our advice to make better, conscious food choices and enjoy the benefits of a healthier diet and healthier lifestyle.
The Healthy Eating Pyramid is a nutrition guide developed by the Harvard School of Public Health as far as in 1992 and then revised several times to include the latest findings of research into nutrition and health. You may have heard of the Healthy Eating Pyramid at school as a child. Unfortunately, not many people follow these excellent recommendations in their daily lives.
In today’s blog we will go through the Pyramid’s tiers and provide you with simple advice on how to better implement the recommendations into your daily routines and food choices. It may seem difficult at first, but if you take it a step at a time you will eventually learn how to include these seamlessly in your life and discover all the benefits of maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Copyright © 2008. For more information about The Healthy Eating Pyramid, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, www.thenutritionsource.org, and Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, by Walter C. Willett, M.D., and Patrick J. Skerrett (2005), Free Press/Simon & Schuster Inc.”
The Pyramid’s Base
Let’s dive right in: the latest revision of the Healthy Eating Pyramid is from 2008. You may notice that the very bottom tier, the base of the Pyramid, addresses the aspect of healthy lifestyle: daily exercise and weight control.
Daily exercise and activity as well as managing your weight should be one of the priorities of today’s society. Numerous studies show that a good diet combined with a decent level of daily activity are the key to success if you want to feel good, have lots of energy and keep your brain healthy, too.
The Healthy Eating Pyramid also additionally addresses the aspect of alcohol consumption as well as vitamin supplementation. Vitamin D is one of the vitamins most lacked by the UK population due to the lack of sun and its scarcity in the diet. Did you know that it is recommended to supplement vitamin D daily throughout autumn to spring? (We’ll talk more about vitamin D in one of our upcoming blogs, stay tuned!)
Now, let’s analyse the dietary recommendations from the Healthy Eating Pyramid and see what simple changes you can introduce to make your diet healthier.
The 2nd tier (looking from the bottom up) makes up the basis of your diet. It should consist primarily of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and healthy fats and oils. These 3 basic food groups make up the good carbohydrates (needed for your brain to work), fats, minerals and vitamins and are all extremely important for maintaining the healthy bodily functions.
- Eat your veggies! It is best to maintain the proportion of 4:1 or 3:2 vegetable to fruit. Fruits or vegetables should be included with most of your meals during the day. The World Health Organisation recommends a minimum of 400g of vegetables should be consumed each day but increasing this value to 800g/day doubles the health benefits!
- The greater the variety the better! Eat colourful meals! Did you know that the colours of fruit and vegetables often relate to their vitamin and mineral composition? If you want your body to get all the nutrients, try to ensure you eat various colourful fruits and vegetables. (Note, potatoes and chips don’t count as vegetables!)
- Whole grains include brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oats, etc. As a general rule, the ‘brown’ breads and pastas are the less processed so contain more fibre and minerals. It’s simple to introduce more whole grains into your diet: swap brown basmati rice to brown rice or other grains such as quinoa, try wholegrain loafs and forget about the soft bread (have you every tried toasting a sourdough slice in the oven? Heaven!)
- Healthy fats and oils include: olive oil, sunflower oil, peanut and other vegetable oils. Healthy oils and fats of this type are best consumed cold: Use olive oil mixed with herbs as a salad dressing.
The second tier up includes nuts, seeds, beans & tofu and fish, poultry and eggs. All of these are important sources of protein and should be included in your diet.
- It is not recommended to eat meat every day. This may come as a surprise to you but it is true! Try to follow the Mediterranean diet and eat meat or fish every other day to start with. Consider all the great variety of vegetables available and the fantastic veggie recipes you can find on the internet and in our other blog posts.
- Remember: nuts and seeds are high in calories: a small handful of seeds or nuts is sufficient for a day for an adult. Why not add them to your breakfast or as part of a healthy snack: mixed fruits and nuts?
The third tier in terms of dietary recommendations is fairy. It is recommended to only eat dairy once or twice a day. You can see the standard serving size on every product packaging description. As a general guidance, each serving is approximately 8 ounces (230 g) of non-fat product or 4 ounces (110 g) of whole fat.
- An average small pot of yoghurt is between 100g – 120g. Why not make it a snack? A small pot of Greek yoghurt with a small handful of nuts and chopped up fruit is your sweet spot combination of nutritious benefits and a great flavour!
- When choosing your daily dairy portions: opt for plain yoghurt and add fruit yourself. While yellow cheese is a good source of calcium, it is quite high in calories so don’t make it your main source of dairy.
- Milk alternatives such as oat milk drink, coconut milk drink and soya milk are also excellent sources of calcium and they provide the same amount of calcium as cow milk.
The top tier
Finally, the top tier of the Pyramid contains the foods you should use sparingly: in very small quantities and ideally not every day. This includes red meat, butter (saturated fat) refined grains (so any white bread or white pasta and rice), sugary drinks and all sorts of sweets and salt.
- Try to cut down on sweets and replace them with fruit. Mix it up! Have you ever tried a pomelo? What about a persimmon? Go and explore your local shop, you may discover new flavours and be surprised at how delicious and naturally sweet fruit can be!
- Try to eat red meat sparingly, once a week at most. Look at alternatives: bean burgers or tofu burgers would be an excellent option which would also help you increase the consumption of products in tier 3! Note, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, eating 50g of red meat per day increases the likelihood of colon cancer by 18%.
- You probably know that already: water is the best drink. It may be difficult to give up soft drinks. However, try to limit the amount you have to start with and then slowly eliminate their consumption altogether. A great alternative here is preparing a home-made iced tea: try hibiscus or fruity tea for a delicately sweet taste, add some lemon juice and mint leaves and you’ll have yourself a delicious refreshing drink. You can prepare a larger quantity and keep it in the fridge for 2 days. I assure you, it will be delicious enjoyed hot or cold!
- Instead of adding salt to your meals, try other spices and herbs. Depending on the dish, you may want to try some delicious herbs combinations such as Herbs de Provence, curry spice or BBQ mix. Make sure you read the ingredients and that the list doesn’t include salt! ?
Following the Healthy Eating Pyramid recommendations can significantly improve your health. You will start noticing results quickly if you implement all changes. If you think there’s a lot you should change in your eating habits, don’t give up! Take it a step at a time and give yourself a reasonable amount of time to get used to the new ways. Every change takes time but it will be worth it in the end!
If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with our Team at Fitasty or comment below!