The Food Pyramid, implemented by the United States Department of Agriculture, is a tool to help people eat a healthy diet with all the food groups. Broken down into five main groups, the food pyramid gives types of foods and the recommended serving sizes for each group. Following the recommendations leads to increased health and energy. The five groups on the Food Pyramid are fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein foods. To see how many servings of each group you should consume, go to MyPyramid.gov.
To fulfill your daily requirements based on your age and gender, eat fresh or frozen fruits or 100 percent fruit juice. Fruits are important for a healthy diet because they supply the body with Vitamins, A, E, and C, and also supply important antioxidants. Great choices include apples, grapes, watermelon, and cantaloupe because they are rich in vitamins and minerals and low in calories. To help increase your intake, add berries to your cereal, have a whole apple for a snack, or bring cut up fruit for lunch.
Vegetables are categorized into five subgroups: Dark Green, Orange, Dry Beans/Peas, Starchy Vegetables, and Other Vegetables. Eating a diet with a variety of vegetables can keep you feeling full and help you to maintain your weight. Vegetables can be eaten raw, cooked, baked, stir-fried, steamed, or dehydrated. One serving of vegetables is usually 1 or 2 cups of leafy green vegetables. To incorporate more vegetables into your diet, have a salad for lunch, add vegetables to your rice, or have celery and carrots for a snack.
Grains are divided into two sub groups: Whole Grains and Refined Grains. The grain group includes bread, pasta, oatmeal, cereal, rice, and popcorn. Aim to consume mostly whole grains, like whole-wheat bread and brown rice, because they help you feel fuller longer. Whole grains contain the endosperm, germ, and the bran, while refined grains only contain the endosperm.
This group contains foods made from milk, like cheese, yogurt, and frozen yogurt, which provides the body with calcium and protein. When choosing dairy products, aim to consume the varieties with less fat so you do not go over your calorie range for the day. A serving of dairy is usually 1 cup of milk, or 1-1 ½ oz. of cheese. Increase your dairy intake by having cold cereal with skim milk for breakfast, a yogurt for a snack, and fruit and cheese for dessert.
Protein is an important group which supplies important amino acids needed for a functioning body. While meat, eggs and fish are considered complete proteins because they provide all the essential amino acids, grains and beans are considered incomplete proteins because they do not. For vegetarians to get complete protein, they must combine foods from the cereal and bean groups within 48 hours. When choosing meat for your protein source, select lean cuts of meats to cut down on saturated fat. Serving sizes for this group are usually 1 oz. of meat, ¼ cup of beans, or ½ oz. of nuts. Increase your protein intake by adding walnuts to your oatmeal, grilled lean chicken to your salad, and having salmon for dinner.