The term food pyramid (FP) refers to the way we combine the various nutrients we ingest as part of our daily diet.
According to the USDA guidelines, a healthy food pyramid includes (in this order):
- whole grain products such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, etc
- vegetables and fruit
- lean meats/poultry/fish; low-fat or non-fat dairy; eggs; beans; nuts
- small amounts of sweets and fats
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The order in which these aliments are listed coincides with their importance in our diet. As such, whole grain breads and cereals are considered the mainstay of one's diet, followed closely by vegetable and fruit. Meats, dairy and eggs are in the middle as far as importance, whereas sweets and fish should be used sparingly if at all.
The above way of combining foods represents the conventional (regular) food pyramid, and is believed to be the healthiest long-term dietary scenario.
What is a food pyramid variation?
In essence, it's a different way of supplying calories to your body. For instance, instead
of eating carbohydrates as the mainstay of your diet, you may shift to eating vegetables
and fruit as your mainstay for a certain period of time (e.g., 3 days up to 1 week).
The advantage of this short-tem shift is that it creates confusion for the body. In other
words, if your body is used to get the majority of its calories from carbohydrates, it will
find it difficult (at least in the beginning) to shift to another calorie source. This
difficulty causes the body to break down some of its reserve calories (from fat reserves),
thereby facilitating weight loss.
The more often the body is faced with such unfamiliar food situations, the more confusion
will be created, and the more weight loss will ensue.
Now, we still want to keep this process safe. This being said, let's see what types of FP variations can be considered safe, and how we can use them to facilitate weight
To start with, take a look at the conventional food pyramid described at the top of this page. Next, let's see how we can shift things around:
- Make fruit and vegetables the mainstay of your diet, followed by whole
grain breads/cereals/rice/pasta, and then by lean meat/fish/dairy products. Or...
- Make lean meats/fish/dairy products the mainstay of your diet, followed
by vegetable/fruit, and then by whole grain breads and cereals.
- Make fruit and vegetables the mainstay of your diet, followed by lean meat/fish/dairy products, and then by whole grain breads/cereals/rice/pasta.
Warning: Never make fats or sweets the mainstay of your diet. In addition to being a health hazard, this is a sure recipe for rapid weight gain.
A food pyramid variation can be used for a limited period of time, from 3 days up to 1 week, as an adjunct in weight loss. This can be particularly helpful for jumpstarting a weight loss program, or for
conquering stubborn weight plateaus. FP variations can be cycled in sequence, as
- Start with the regular food pyramid
- Then switch to FP variation 2 for several days (eat lean meat/fish/non-fat dairy as your mainstay, and limit other foods)
- Then switch to FP variation 1 for several days (eat fruit and vegetables as your mainstay, and limit other foods)
- Then switch back to the regular food pyramid
- Allow 2 weeks, then may repeat the process
When using any food pyramid variation for weight loss purposes, the following should be
- All meats, poultry, and fish should be lean (vegetarians can substitute meat with soy products).
- All dairy products should be low-fat or fat-free. Butter, cream and sour cream should be avoided (low fat substitutes are available and can be used).
- All breads and cereals should be whole-grain. For bread, this means whole wheat bread (the only one available in the US that's really whole grain).
- Rice and especially pasta should be used in moderation.
- Eggs should preferably be consumed without the yolk (which has high fat content). In other words, use egg beaters.
- Products rich in added sugar should be avoided.
- Solid fats such as lard, margarine and butter should be avoided.
- Most fats should come from nuts, fish and fish-oil, and vegetable oils such as olive oil and canola oil (all of which should be used in moderation).
- It is prudent to consult with your physician before starting any new diet or weight loss program.
- If you suffer from any medical condition which requires a special kind of diet, please disregard this page and continue to follow the diet recommended by your physician.
Return from "Food Pyramid" to "Grocery Food Facts"