The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on the Food Pyramid
Proper nourishment is essential for our longevity and overall health, but choosing and preparing the best foods worth eating can be tricky. Here, we will break down the food pyramid as created by the FDA and offer you the ultimate cheat sheet for meeting your food pyramid goals while keeping your calorie count low.
- Bread, Rice, Cereals, and Pasta Group
This group is considered the most important food group on the food pyramid due to the fact that these foods provide us with fiber. Fiber promotes healthy digestion. The vitamins and minerals found in grains promote healthy cell function. And most of the calories found in grains come in the form of carbohydrates which are essential sources for long-term energy. If you happen to be counting your calories, you may notice that this particular food group tends to be heavy in calories, depending on what you buy. When it comes to bread, pasta, and rice, always go for whole grain.
Whole grain foods retain much of their intended fiber content, minerals, and vitamins. In addition to being surprisingly healthy, whole grain foods aren’t refined and contain no added sugars which are ideal foods for those who have diabetes. Eating a diet rich in whole grains can help reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your cholesterol. Try to avoid cereals whenever possible. They are loaded with hidden sugars and are heavily processed.
- Vegetable Group
Vegetables are powerhouses of healthy, low calorie meals. Vegetables offer more vitamins and nutrients than calories. This is because vegetables are primarily made of water and fiber. Be aware that the method you use to cook your vegetables (if you don’t eat them raw) will determine their ultimate calorie count and nutritional value. If you don’t eat your vegetables raw, steamed or baked are the two best ways to cook most vegetables. Boiling is always an option, but boiling also removes some of the nutrients from the vegetables during cooking. While lettuce counts as a vegetable, it has little to no nutritional value and is mostly just water. Choose hearty cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower.
- Fruit Group
Fruits are nature’s candy. They are colorful, sweet, and make you feel good while you’re eating them. While whole fruits are healthy and full of nutrients, they’re also full of sugar. While the sugar is a naturally-occurring sugar, fruits can still weigh in pretty heavy on the calorie count. One apple can have as much as 100 calories. That’s as many calories as a slice of whole grain bread. So, when you’re portioning out your meals, be sure to include fresh fruit but also keep them to a minimum. Fruits are full of fiber, so they’re great for a between-meal snack to stave off any cravings you might experience.
- Dairy Group
The dairy group consists of things made from milk such as yogurts and cheeses. Dairy provides an immense amount of the calcium that your body needs. A great way to ingest all of the daily calcium and protein you need with fewer calories is to try alternative kinds of milk such as soy or almond milk. These kinds of milk also have a considerably less fat content than regular milk. Greek yogurt is the best choice when it comes to yogurts. It’s packed full of protein and has less sugar than regular yogurt.
- Meat, Fish, Poultry, Dry Beans, Eggs, & Nuts Group
This is a group of food that will most likely take up the bulk of your daily calories. Protein is an essential nutrient that our body needs to build our muscles and keep us healthy. When it comes to choosing healthy, low calorie meals centered around a meat, your best choice would be poultry or fish. Red meat, while delicious, is heavier in calories and fat than poultry and fish. Eggs are full of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids which are essential to lowering your risk of heart disease.
- Fats, Oils, & Sweets Group
Everyone’s favorite group, this group consists of the food items that we ingest that offer little to no nutritional value. These foods are full of calories and unhealthy fats and sugars that will do great damage to our bodies in large quantities. If you must use oil in cooking, use extra virgin olive oil for the added health benefits. Learn how to start replacing your unhealthy, saturated fats with healthier polyunsaturated fats. To satisfy your sweet tooth, try nibbling on a few squares of dark chocolate to get a little taste of sugar with a handful of added health benefits.
Hopefully after this you feel better prepared to differentiate the healthy foods in your diet from the unhealthy foods.