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The Food Pyramid

Is it a good guide to healthy eating?

food pyramid image smallThe Food guide pyramid was published by the US Department of Agriculture in 1992 as a way to encourage healthy eating.

In spite of this though, it still isn't clear what we should be eating to stay healthy. A study done by the USDA in the '90's showed that over 40 percent of people agreed with the following statement:

“There are so many recommendations about healthy ways to eat, it’s hard to know what to believe.”

In spite of all the nutritional discoveries made since then, this statement is still true today....

So what's wrong with this picture?

The original Food Pyramid showed the relative amounts of each food type we should consume on a daily basis. Starting at the top we have:


Actually, there is basically nothing wrong with the guide, after all what it is really saying is to:

                     Eat what your grandmother ate  - a balanced diet!

But this won't necessarily help you to lose weight!

Different people will have different requirements, especially if you are on a diet. These days, diets like the Paleo diet are promoting higher protein intake (sometimes combined with gluten-free grain). The Paleo diet has achieved an enormous popularity because it does work and also helps promote a healthier lifestyle.


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The USDA food guide has been criticized for the following:

  • It does not differentiate between 'good' fats and 'bad' fats. (unsaturated vs. unsaturated, vegetable vs. animal fats)

  • It had no serving recommendations for the fat group. We know now that the rights fats are an essential part of a good diet.

  • Although the serving sizes were defined (see below) they still left plenty of room to eat too much of one group like carbohydrates.

The food pyramid is only a guide. Different people will have different requirements, especially if you are on a diet. In fact the Atkins Diet version of the food pyramid looks like this:



This is completely different from the traditional USDA pyramid...

The meat group is at the bottom indicating that this is where a lot of your food intake will come from. There are also no fruits included in the usual fruit and vegetable group!

It's generally acknowledged that the Atkins diet is not the healthiest for you, although you will probably will lose weight!

The point is - even with the food pyramid you need to interpret the guidelines correctly. Remembering that the original food pyramid guide is basically good and just needs to be refined for your own needs.





So let's modify the original pyramid a little to suit a healthy lifestyle, which would assume you are exercising regularly. One way to do this is to look at your daily calorie consumption. Here is a typical one for a healthy woman:


Food sources



Carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables and fruit


10 oz

Proteins from lean meat or low fat dairy


4 oz

Fat - unsaturated where possible


2 oz

Total calories



By using the food pyramid as a guide you can fine tune your actual diet to meet your daily requirements.

Here are some recommended serving sizes:

Food sources

Serving size


1 slice

Rice (cooked)

1/2 cup

Fruit - One apple or a banana


Veggies (cooked)

1/2 cup


1 cup



Meat 4 ozs


Olive oil

1 teaspoon













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