Nutrition and Healthy eating


By Mayo Clinic staff

A healthy-eating plan can be illustrated in many ways, but it's often found in the shape of a pyramid. Food pyramids outline various food groups and food choices that, if eaten in the right quantities, form the foundation of a healthy diet.


foodpyramidThe food pyramid plan

A food pyramid familiar too many Americans is My Pyramid (formerly known as the Food Guide Pyramid), developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Many other pyramids exist, however. These include the Asian, Latin American, Mediterranean and Vegetarian diet pyramids, and the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid, just to name a few. ( please watches food pyramid here)                                 
A pyramid is an easy way to show how the pieces of a healthy diet fit together. The base of the pyramid is made up of foods that should be the foundation — or the bulk — of your healthy diet. In contrast, foods you should eat in smaller amounts or less frequently are shown in the smaller sections of the pyramid. The exception to this is My Pyramid, which shows the food groups side by side instead of stacked.
Food pyramids put foods into categories — such as dairy products or meat and beans — to help guide your food choices. No single food provides all of the nutrients that your body needs, so eating a variety of foods within each group ensures that you get the necessary nutrients and other substances that promote good health.
Although many variations of the food pyramid exist, most emphasize the following advice:

  • Eat more plant foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Reduce intake of animal foods, which are also the natural source for cholesterol.
  • Substitute healthy plant fats in place of saturated and trans fats.
  • Limit sweets and salt.
  • Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, if at all.
  • Control portion sizes and the total number of calories you consume.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine.

Food pyramids: Explore these healthy diet options

Food pyramid differences: Although food pyramids use the same general principles of healthy eating, they demonstrate different food choices. These differences reflect dietary preferences, food availability and cultural eating patterns. For example, the Latin American Diet Pyramid might mention tortillas and cornmeal, whereas the Asian Diet Pyramid might include noodles and rice.

Other differences include:
Food groups – The food groups among food pyramids may vary somewhat. For example, some versions have put plant-based proteins — soybeans, beans and nuts — in a separate group from animal proteins found in meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. This is because animal proteins are often higher in fat and cholesterol, and some diets limit or avoid animal proteins.
Serving recommendations – How food pyramids address servings also varies. The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid, for example, recommends a daily number of servings from each food group. It also defines serving sizes; for example, a serving of cooked brown rice is 1/3 cup and a serving of milk is 1 cup. Other plans offer more-general guidelines, such as eating particular foods at every meal, or on a weekly or monthly basis. For example, the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid recommends that you eat whole grains, vegetables and fruits at every meal but that you eat meat and sweets less often.

How to use food pyramids: To see how your diet matches up to any of these pyramids, keep a food diary for several days. Then compare how much of your diet comes from the various groups. If your eating patterns are out of sync with the pyramid, work on bringing them in line with gradual changes, such as eating more vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and limiting fats and sweets. Here are a few simple practices to help you get and stay on track:

  • Choose a variety of foods from each major food group. This ensures that you get all of the calories, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber you need. Choosing a wide range of foods also helps make your meals and snacks more interesting.
  • Adapt the plan to your specific tastes and preferences. For example, a serving of grains doesn't only mean a slice of wheat bread. It can be wild rice, whole-wheat pasta, grits, bulgur, cornmeal muffins or even popcorn.
  • Combine foods from each major group however you like. For example, you might make a meal of tortillas (grain group) and beans (meat and beans group). Or you could top your fish with fruit salsa or serve steamed vegetables over pasta. The possibilities are endless.
  • Select your meals and snacks wisely. Make the most of what you eat by choosing nutrient-rich foods within each group. If you need to exclude foods from one or more food groups — for example, if you avoid dairy products because of lactose intolerance — try to choose foods from other groups that will provide you with the same nutrients.


Remember to be creative and go for good taste. Explore the cuisines illustrated in the various food pyramids.


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