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Navigating the Food Pyramid
The federal government has long given guidelines about how Americans can eat. For many of those years, it was thought that one set of guidelines fit all. However, as the lifestyle of Americans changed, so did their dietary needs. Just like one size rarely fits all, one set of dieting guidelines does not fit all, either. Some citizens were doing quite well with the guidelines, while others might become obese from them.
The food pyramid was started in the 1990s as a response to these concerns. It still gives guidelines and examples of the different types of foods, but also gives information about the best choices in these categories. Most information is given in ounces instead of ‘servings’, which can be misconstrued and cause overeating.
The largest food group listed on the Food Pyramid is grains. The Pyramid recommends that you get eat at least 3 ounces of foods from this group. Those choices include whole grains breads, cereal, crackers, rice and pasta. It is also recommended that at least half (if not more) of your daily grain intake come from ‘whole’ grains. This means goodies such as whole wheat bread or whole grain brown rice, for example.
Vegetables are the next food group on the Pyramid. There are five subcategories in the vegetable group. Those are dark greens like broccoli, bok choy and others. Next are orange veggies like the carrots and pumpkin. Dry beans and peas count as veggies and include pinto, kidney and soy beans. Starchy vegetables are amongst the most popular and count corn and potatoes amongst their members. The ‘other’ group is vegetables that don’t quite fit into any of the other categories like asparagus, artichokes, onions and other culinary delights. The recommended amount depends on your age and gender but varies from 1 cup (toddlers) to up to 3 cups (active grown men) per person per day.
The third area of the Food Pyramid is fruits. This category includes such things as berries, melons, bananas, apples and even fruit juices. Your daily level of physical activity and overall fitness play a large roll in how much fruit you should consume each day, as does gender and age. Generally speaking, children and toddlers should get 1 to 1.5 cups per day, whereas most adult men and women should get 1.5 to 2 cups per day.
Fourth on the list is the milk group, formerly known as dairy. The milk group includes milk, yogurt, cheese and all milk-based desserts such as puddings, frozen yogurts and ice cream. The guidelines for this are rather easy- toddlers and children should get 2 cups per day. Once a child reaches the age of 8, they should get 3 cups all the way through adulthood.
Fifth on the list is the Meat and Beans group, or protein. It includes meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, peanut butter and nuts. Depending on age and gender, the recommended daily amount is anywhere from 2-6 oz per day. However, you should strive to make most of these choices low fat to help your overall health.
The last group is the oils group. This is listed last because it should be used sparingly at best, though you should still have a little each day. This group includes things like olive and canola oil, but also a lot of edible fats such as butter, shortening and lard. Limit these as much as possible and stick to low fat alternatives whenever you can to complete your daily food pyramid guidelines.