Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Food Pyramid

6:23 AM by dody ·

As you can see, the largest group is the base of the pyramid. This group contains breads, grains, and other starches (like corn and potatoes). This is the group the USDA believes you should eat the most of. These grains and starches help give you energy, but they can be loaded with carbohydrates that can raise your blood sugar. It’s best to stick with whole grains, and go easy on the really starchy foods like potatoes. The USDA recommends that adults consume around 6 to 11 servings of grains and starches per day. Be careful to monitor your portion sizes carefully! A single slice of bread is one serving, but a slice of thick-sliced bread is TWO servings, and a standard 6-inch sub sandwich roll is THREE servings!
The next level of the pyramid contains fruits and vegetables. Originally fruits and vegetables were in the same food group when it came to the “four food groups”, but a distinction needed to be made. You need to eat both fruits AND vegetables in order to have the healthiest possible diet, so the USDA decided to draw a separation between the two.
Ideally, you want to have at least 3-5 servings of vegetables and 204 servings of fruit each day. A typical serving of vegetables is 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked. A typical fruit serving is 1 small fresh fruit or ½ cup canned fruit.
The next level of the pyramid shows dairy and protein. The dairy section is smaller than the meat section, because you don’t need as much milk per day as you do protein.
You should be getting at least 2-3 servings of dairy per day, preferably low-fat or non-fat. This could include things like milk, yogurt, or even low-fat ice cream.
Proteins include meats and seafood, dried beans, eggs, cheese, and peanut butter. Yes, cheese is included in protein rather than dairy.
You want to get 4-6 ounces of protein daily, ideally from low-fat varieties such as most seafoods, egg whites, low-fat cottage cheese, and skinless poultry. Tofu is also a good choice if you like it.
The final group includes fats, sweets, and alcohol. You should keep these to a minimum. Remember, you do need some fat in your diet, but excessive fat can lead to obesity, especially when consumed with excessive amounts of carbohydrates.
You should have a maximum of 1-2 servings from this group per day, especially when trying to lose weight.
It’s not easy keeping track of all of these things, so I don’t actually worry too much about counting each and every serving and adding it all up during the day.
What I do is I develop menus for the week, and I plan each meal in a specific way. That way I don’t have to worry about adding things up, because it all happens quite naturally.
Here’s an example of how I do things:
3 servings grains
1 serving fruit
1 serving protein
1 serving dairy
4 servings grains
1 serving fruit
2 servings vegetables
1 serving protein
1 serving dairy
1 serving fat (if not at dinner)
2 servings grains
1 serving vegetables
2 servings protein
1 serving fat (if not at lunch)
1 serving fruit
1 serving vegetables
That’s 3 meals and two snacks per day, which might seem like a lot of food when you’re dieting, but it’s not. You MUST keep eating regularly to keep your metabolism high. If you don’t, your weight loss is going to be much slower than you’d like.
As you can see, this gives me each day:
9 servings grains
3 servings fruit
5 servings vegetables
4 servings protein
2 servings dairy
1 serving of fat
This is a good balance. It’s right in the middle of the grains, on the low end of protein and dairy, and on the high end of fruits and vegetables. That’s what really got me the best weight loss, because fruits and vegetables are obviously lower in fat and calories than meat and dairy, and I stayed right in the middle for grains to give me enough energy without overeating.
This is what a typical menu would look like:
3 servings oatmeal (small bowl)
1 serving applesauce (in the oatmeal)
1 ounce bacon or ham
1 cup non-fat milk (half over the oatmeal)
2 sandwiches with:

2 slices whole grain bread each
lettuce and tomato
½ ounce low-fat turkey on each
1 tbsp. mayonnaise (half on each)
1 apple
1 cup non-fat milk
Noodle Stir-Fry with:
2 servings whole wheat pasta
½ cup steamed broccoli
2 ounces grilled chicken
Herbs and 0 calorie seasonings to taste
SNACK (between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner)
1 cup cantaloupe cubes
SNACK (between lunch and dinner or after dinner)
1 cup salad with fat-free dressing
As you can see, this keeps you eating all day long, and you get a considerable amount of food each time. If you’re hungry, eat! Just be sure you’re really hungry.
It can be quite difficult to tell if you’re actually hungry or if you are just bored or depressed and want to eat. Before you eat anything, try to listen to your stomach, not your head. If your stomach is growling or pinching, you’re really hungry. If it isn’t, then you just want to eat
Remember, you can indulge sometimes, too. If you’re craving corn chips, go for it! But grab out a handful and put it into a bowl, do NOT eat straight from the bag!
It’s very important to learn portion control. You can’t eat unlimited amounts of almost any food without gaining weight. Yes, you can eat to your heart’s content on cucumbers or lettuce, but most foods need to be limited.
In the next chapter, I’m going to make a list of foods you can eat whenever you’re hungry, including foods that you can have in practically unlimited quantities.
We’ll also look at some food substitutions you can use to satisfy cravings for higher-fat foods. While this won’t always work, sometimes it does. Whenever you can cut calories with substitutions, it’s a great thing!
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