The Mystery of the Healthy Eating Pyramid

Written by Registered Dietitian (USA), Ms Heidi Chan

Healthy diet is can help improve our health and weight problems. However fad diets appearing everywhere might not be the best solution for our weight maintenance. On the other hand they might cause adverse effects such as tiredness, reduced immunity and weakness. Indeed, the Healthy Eating Pyramid is the most scientifically proven, long-lasting, reliable eating guideline.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid was created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1992. This concept focuses on the balance, appropriate proportion and diversity of food. It also classifies food by nutrients.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid incorporates the nutrients and food sources we need every day. Food provides us with energy (calories) and nutrients for our body needs. Carbohydrate, protein and fat all provide energy. Carbohydrate should provide 50-60% of daily energy intake, protein should be around 20% and fat should be less than 30%. Every level of the pyramid shows the type of food and proportions in diet.

1. Bread and cereal group (e.g. rice, noodles, and biscuits) is at the bottom. 

The wide base implies that this group is the foundation food and should be consumed the most, in order to provide our body energy, fibre, and different vitamins and minerals. High fibre options are recommended. The recommendation is to consume 3-8 serves (each serve is equivalent to 1/2 medium sized bowl of rice OR 1 medium sized bowl of congee OR 1/2 medium sized bowl of noodle OR 1 slice of bread)

2. Fruit and vegetable groups are placed together on the second level, separated by a dotted line. They are both rich sources of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. As the energy content of fruit is higher than vegetable, the intake of vegetable should be slightly higher than fruit, and fruit should be consumed in appropriate amount. 2-3 serves of fruit per day (1 serve is equivalent to 1 medium piece of apple, orange or pear; 1/2 bowl of watermelon; 1/2 banana etc.), and 3 serves of vegetable (1 serve is equivalent to 1/2 bowl of cooked vegetable, 1 bowl of salad or 3/4 cup of vegetable juice)per day are recommended. 

3. Meat and its alternatives (including pork, beef, lamb, fish, egg, soy bean and bean products) and dairy products are located on the level with smaller area. They provide protein, some minerals and vitamins. As protein only makes up about 20% of daily energy intake, eating a moderate amount of food from these two groups is sufficient for our body needs. We should not eat more than 5-8 teals (200-320g) of meat per day. 1-2 serves of low fat/ no fat dairy or cheese per day is recommended.

4. Oil, salt and sugar are at the top tip of pyramid. Eating excess amount of oil, salt and sugar could bring negative impact to our health; therefore use of such condiments should be minimized. And we also have to choose low fat, low sugar and low salt foods as a guide.

*The recommended serves per day varies with individuals’ age. The recommended serves in this article are for adults.

資料來源:《營養師話你知 100不可不知健康營養真相》
Translated by: Gabriel Pun, Accredited Practising Dietitian (Australia)