Food Guide Pyramid By The USDA
Shaping a Healthy Diet with the Food Guide Pyramid
The Food Guide Pyramid, developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, expands and refines the traditional concept of the four food groups by clumping meat, fish, and dairy products under the umbrella of protein sources; treating fats and sweets as a separate dietary element; and, most important, revising previously accepted notions about the number of servings that ought to be derived from each group.
The illustration of the food guide pyramid below tells the story in a very graphic manner, and the key points in that story are pretty simple:
1. Eat More Starches
Starches, which can be derived from whole-grain breads, cereals, rice, and pasta, should serve as the foundation of your healthful, balanced diet. You want to have six to eleven servings from this group on a daily basis.
In many foods, including those mentioned above, starches combine with simple sugars (sucrose and glucose are two you may have heard of) and cellulose to form chemical compounds known as complex carbohydrates. The beauty of carbohydrates—and the reason so many endurance athletes "load up” on them— s that they are digested easily, burn cleanly, and convert readily into usable energy.
An excellent source of dietary fiber, carbohydrates help flush impurities from your system and thus lower your risk of developing intestinal tract cancers and digestive disorders of all kinds.
2. Eat More Vegetables and Fruits
Fresh produce should also be a prominent part of just about every meal you eat and, as we’ll recommend a little later, of your snacks as well. The experts say you need at least five servings daily from this group, but we’d advise that you shoot for the high end of the suggested range (i.e., up to nine servings).
Why? Because fresh fruits and veggies are, on the whole, nutrient-dense, meaning they are naturally low in fat and calories, yet rich in essential vitamins and fiber. Recent evidence suggests, too, that the antioxidant vitamins (A and C) found in fresh produce may dramatically reduce the cancer risk in people who consistently meet or exceed the suggested five-serving minimum.
3. Get the Protein Your Growing Body Needs
Proteins derived from meats, fish, dairy products, dried beans, nuts, and soy products such as tofu are the building blocks of strong muscles, dense bones, and tough connective tissue. They also play a critical role in repairing damaged muscle tissue when you suffer an injury or strain. In contrast to starches, proteins burn slowly, and act less like fuel and more like raw material once inside your body.
Since proteins are especially important for growing adolescents and teens, and for women in general, you should be sure to get your recommended four to six daily servings from this group. For the average American, however, that’s no problem.
Fact is, our rich diets and hearty eating habits typically provide more protein than we really need, a situation that is further complicated by the fact that much of our protein intake comes from high-fat sources like red meats and dairy products.
Some solutions: Gravitate to low-fat protein sources such as chicken and fish (baked or broiled, not fried!), light dairy products, skim milk, and trimmed, lean meats.
Further, slash the fat content of protein sources by thoughtful preparation.
It doesn’t require much extra effort to, say, remove the skin from the piece of chicken you’re preparing or to carefully trim the excess fat from a pork tenderloin before you cook it, yet both of these simple steps can help transform potentially fatty, high-cal dishes into lighter, healthier protein power meals and have you closer to the food guide pyramid.
Food Guide Pyramid