A Nurse’s Guide to the Food Pyramid

Variety is the spice of life, and that is no truer than in the area of food. There’s a reason “a well-balanced meal” is such an important concept. Making sure that you are getting the most out of every meal by getting a little of each food group is essential to staying healthy. The best way to make sure you have the variety of foods you need for a healthy diet is to pay special attention to the food pyramid. Let’s discuss them in order of importance.

The Fats, Oils, and Sweets Group

The food group you should be indulging in the least is the fats, oils, and sweets group. This group certainly has its place. Fats and oils are actually an important part of a healthy diet. Of course, the important thing to remember when you consider the daily recommended dose of fats and oils is that you probably get this amount in other foods you eat every day. For example, if you eat an avocado, you will get a good amount of fat from it. Eating foods that are excessively high in fats and oils, like cheeseburgers, french fries, and doughnuts can be detrimental to your health.

The Beans and Meats Group

This may be the group you are most familiar and comfortable with, but compared to other groups you should be careful with your intake of this one. This group includes fish, chicken, red meat, and dry beans. Oddly, it also includes eggs and nuts. Compared to other groups further down the pyramid, you may want to take in less of this, but that does not mean that there are not a ton of benefits to eating from the beans and meats group. The most obvious benefit is that this is the group where you’re going to find most of your protein. Protein helps you grow up strong by helping you build muscle and repair body tissue. Further, this is a great source of iron, which is vital for your blood, and zinc, which is great for your bones and eyes. All said, the beans and meats group is an extremely important part of a balanced diet and should never be ignored.

The Milk Group

This may as well be called the dairy group because it involves so much more than just milk. While milk is obviously a major component of the milk group, you will also find yogurt, cheese, and any other dairy product in this group, and you’ll want to get plenty of it. The recommended amount of daily intake from the milk group is three cups, and you’ll want to get every bit of those three cups if you’re going to make the most of the benefits you get from them. The most important nutrient you’re going to get from the milk group is calcium, which, along with nutrients like zinc, is great for your bones and teeth. Another nutrient that directly benefits bone growth is vitamin D, and there’s plenty of it in the milk group. If you’re looking to grow strong muscles, you’ll get protein and potassium from this group as well.

The Fruit Group

Now we’re getting to the really good stuff. With the fruit group and even the upcoming vegetable group, there are recommended daily amounts you should eat, but they’re really just the start. With few exceptions, you can’t eat too many fruits and vegetables, and the options are almost endless! The fruit group, which contains, of course, things like apples, oranges, bananas, etc, has a daily recommended amount of 1.5 to 2 cups per day, but exceeding that is often great for your health. Every bite you take gives you great nutrients, like vitamin A which works on keeping your skin, hair, and eyesight healthy. What’s more, you’ll get lots of vitamin C, which keeps our teeth and gums healthy by helping your body absorb iron. Not only can that – eating an apple give you as much energy as a cup of coffee! Not too shabby!

The Vegetable Group

Like the fruit group, you really can’t go wrong by eating as many vegetables as you can manage. They are simply packed with nutrition, some more than others. For example, lettuce, a major part of the vegetable group, comes in many shapes and sizes. None of them are unhealthy to be sure, but, for example, kale is a much more nutritious lettuce than, say, iceberg, so it is important to know what nutrition you are getting from the vegetables you are eating. The recommended daily amount of vegetables you eat is two to two and a half cups per day, but eating more has no negative effects. You’ll simply get more, and potentially an excess of, vitamins A and C, as well as a good healthy dose of fiber, which is extremely important for digestion. At the end of the day, nobody ever became overweight because they ate too many vegetables, so go at them and enjoy!

The Grains Group

The final and largest group is the bread group, and with good reason. The variety and amount of nutrients you can get from the grain group is without parallel. The obvious major component of the bread group is bread, which has a variety of nutrients including carbohydrates that vary wildly depending on the type of bread being baked, but there’s more to the bread group than just bread. You can also eat rice and pasta as part of this group, and while over-indulging in this group is not recommended, there is still a ton of nutrition to be had here. Carbohydrates are part of what fuels the body, so some of these are great. Furthermore, you’ll find a healthy amount of vitamin B1 in this group, which is vital to the health of the nervous system.