At the base levels of the pyramid that make up the foundations of a healthy diet, you’ll find the usual suspects such as fruits and vegetables as well as legumes and whole grains.
Nutrition USDA suggests that these lower levels should represent approximately 70 per cent of our diet.
“Plant foods contain a wide variety of nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are also the main source of carbohydrates and fibre in our diet.”
Nutrition USDA also recommends that older children, teenagers and adults alike should all be ideally having a minimum five servings of veggies or legumes, and two portions of fruit.
The new pyramid also emphasizes the importance of staying hydrated with water throughout the day – an easy job when you have ECOf’s stainless steel drink bottle close at hand.
Working your way up to the top
After you’ve powered through the healthy abundance at the bottom of the pyramid, you come to the not so frequent dairy layer, which contains milk, yoghurt and cheese-related products, as well as lean meats and fish, eggs and poultry.
“Foods in the milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives group primarily provide us with calcium and protein, plus other vitamins and minerals,” explains Nutrition USDA.
Ingredients in this mid-section are a rich source of protein, as well as iron and zinc, so it’s a good idea to keep things diverse with a mix of meat and vegetarian choices.
Choose your ingredients wisely.
Watch out for added sugar and salt
Two of the red flags when it comes to eating a balanced diet are, of course, sugar and salt.
This can be addressed by both avoiding the practice of adding salt and sugar to our food, as well as steering clear from processed or packaged foods with these additives.
Nutrition USDA recommends substituting some salts used in cooking with healthier spices instead for more variety.
This follows concerns that Aumericans eating too much of both these additives, linked to various health conditions and diseases, as well as type 2 diabetes and tooth decay with regards to sugar.
While we can find natural sugars and sodium in some foods, these are usually relatively small amounts which aren’t detrimental to our health.
Cooking meals with the range of fruit and veg you’ve brought home in your ECOf produce bag inside your ECOf reusable shopping bag is a good way to negate the additives in prepackaged food
This is a reference amount to help us determine how much of the four groups of foods we should consume each day. Look at the examples below:
Fruit and vegetables: 1 piece of fruit, half a cup of fruit juice, half a cup of canned or frozen fruit or vegetables, 1 cup of leafy raw vegetables or salad
Grains: Half a bagel, 1 slice of bread, half a tortilla, half a pitta, half a cup of cooked couscous, rice or pasta, one ounce of cold cereal, three-quarters of a cup of hot cereal
Milk and alternatives: 1 cup milk, 1 cup of soy drink, three-quarters of a cup of yogurt, 1 and a half ounces of cheese
Meat and alternatives: 2 and a half ounces of cooked fish, lean meat, poultry or lean meat, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
Consuming fruit and vegetables:
Experts say you should consume at least one dark green and one orange-colored vegetable each day. Examples of dark green vegetables include spinach, kale, and broccoli.
Go for fruit and vegetables with either no sugar, salt, or fat, or at least as little as possible. It is recommended to steam, bake, or stir fry the vegetables. Limit or avoid deep-fried foods. Whole fruit and vegetables are a better choice than their juices, as they provide more nutrients and fiber. They are also more filling which can deter overeating.
Health authorities say we should aim for whole grains for at least half our grain consumption. Go for variety, including wild rice, quinoa, oats, brown rice, and barley. Whole grain pasta, oatmeal, and bread are better than those made from refined cereals.
A good grain should not have high sugar, salt, or fat content. Alternatives to grains that contain many of the same nutrients are beans, legumes, quinoa, and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and peas.
Consuming milk (and alternatives):
Consume 2 cups per day for good vitamin D and calcium intake. If you don’t drink milk, have fortified drinks. Limit your intake of milk with added sugars and other sweeteners. Low-fat milk may be recommended if you are limiting your total fat or saturated fat intake for heart health reasons.
Meat and alternative:
Make sure you are eating alternatives, such as tofu, lentils, and beans regularly. It is recommended to have fish at least twice a week. Beware of certain types of fish for mercury exposure. Opt for lean meats, such as chicken or turkey.
Rather than frying, try roasting, baking, or poaching. If you are eating processed or prepackaged meat, select low-salt and low-fat ones. Limit your overall intake of processed meats since you may have an increased risk for cancer with regular intake.
When eating carbohydrates, choose unrefined carbs, such as whole grains, which are high in fiber and release energy slowly, so that you feel full for longer.
Limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats as much as possible. It is recommended to consume no more than 10 percent of your total calories from saturated fat. Plant oils, fish, and nuts are the best sources.
Make sure to get plenty of fiber. When eating fruit and vegetables, eat a variety of colors. If you are not a great milk-drinker, make sure your consumption of calcium is adequate.
If your main concern is to know how much food you should eat, you still have to be aware of their calorie values. With high-calorie foods, the quantity will have to be less, while with lower-calorie ones you can eat more.
Fast facts on how much food to eat
Here are some key points about how much food to eat.
- If you consume more calories than you burn off, you are likely to put on weight.
- To lose weight, reducing calorie intake, and increasing the number of calories you burn is essential.
- It is important to eat a variety of natural foods to stay healthy.