How a Food Pyramid can Help with Healthy Eating & Weight Control

Food pyramids offer a way of visualizing the proportions of different kinds of food you require for a balanced, healthy diet.

It indicates a healthy balanced diet of macro nutrients - that's simply means protein, carbs and fats - and helps you consume sufficient micro nutrients - that's your vitamins and minerals - for optimal wellness.

If you want to start eating healthy, you may have different reasons why a food pyramid would help. Some of you may just want to eat more nutritious food, or build into our diets food that helps us lose weight. You may have just been diagnosed with diabetes or wheat intolerance and need to manage those conditions.

For me, and I'm sure many others, I want to have more interesting and varied meals - lots of lovely colors and textures - but I'm short of time. So I'm looking for ideas for healthy meals that don't take too long to cook or cost too much.

Whatever your needs or desires, you can use a pyramid diagram to help you understand the food groups and the recommended amounts in your daily diet. Although they are intended to provide the general public with diet and nutritional guidelines for sensible eating habits, which are especially useful when following any weight loss plan, they can sometimes confuse more than clarify.

But, there are loads and loads of different pyramids to be found in books, diet plans and on websites.

Which one is correct?

My guide to Food Pyramid Diagrams gives you an overview of the typical variations from the general to vegetarian, from kids & teens to the over 60s.

I've included some advice here also specifically for people managing diabetes, as I've yet to come across a specific pyramid for diabetics, probably because there are a lot of variations in the type and degree of diabetes.

There are also some printable food pyramids Another diagram I've come across for visualising the healthy proportions of the different food types in your diet is a "food wheel". Here's a nice one:

What about alcohol?

For obvious reasons, alcohol isn't part of the healthy food types in these diagrams ... but many of us do drink alcohol through the week, sometimes even daily. So it's perhaps a good place here to mention the levels of 'healthy' alcohol consumption.

Women can drink about 2 units of alcohol a day and men up to 3 to 4 units a day without significant risk to their health.

A unit is half a pint of standard strength (3 to 5% ABV) beer, lager or cider, or a pub measure of spirit. A glass of wine is about 2 units and alcopops are about 1.5 units.

For a list of how many calories are in different units of alcohol, go to my page on Alcohol Calories.

For good health, it's a good idea to spread your drinking throughout the week and avoid binge drinking. If you have drunk a far whack one evening, you should drink plenty of water and abstain from alcohol for at least 48 hours to give your body a chance to recover. (Note: if your liver's busy detoxing the alcohol, it can't burn fat!!!)

There is evidence that having 1-2 units of alcohol per day can help protect against coronary heart disease, at least this is what has been suggested for men over 40 and for women after menopause.

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