Topic 8 The Food Groups, the Healthy Eating Pyramid and the Healthy Eating Plate

The Food Groups

Each group includes foods that are nutritionally equivalent (type and content of basic nutrients)

Fruit and vegetables:
They contain important vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber
Cereals and Tubers:
Breads, cereals, potatoes and other grains; good source of energy, carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, iron and vitamins. Whole grain foods have more fiber and nutrients.
Dairy products:
Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives; good sources of protein, vitamins and calcium
  • Legumes: source of fiber, vitamins and minerals and naturally very low in fat.
  • Fish: especially oil-rich fish, is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. 
  • Eggs
  • Meat and poultry: one of the main sources of vitamin B12, which is only found in food from animals.
Oils, nuts, butter, margarine, lard. Plant-based oils and nuts are rich in unsaturated fat, so they can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Animal fats are rich in saturated fats.

Consumers can think of the Healthy Eating Pyramid as a grocery list:

  • Vegetables and fruits: 3-5 portions a day
  • Whole grains: 1-2 portions a day
  • Healthy oils: 2-4 portions a day
  • Fish, poultry, eggs: more than 2 portions of fish, 1-2 portions of poultry, 2-4 portions of eggs
  • Nuts: 1-2 portions a day
  • Beans: more than 2 portions a week
  • Dairy: 1-2 portions a day
  • Meat: less than 2 portions a week (less than 1 portion of processed meat)
  • Sweets: less than 2 portions a week

Other aspects of a healthy lifestyle: exercise, weight control, vitamin D, multivitamin supplements and moderation in alcohol for people who drink

  • Have a good breakfast every day.
  • Have a small snack in the middle of the morning and in the afternoon: a fruit, a yogurt, crunchy vegetables, a slice of bread with jam or with tomato and oil, dried fruit in shell.
  • Consume bread, pasta, rice and other cereals at every meal
  • Increase the consumption of legumes alternating them with animal protein sources
  • Make some vegetables more palatable and lessen the bitter taste of some vegetables combining them with those with a sweeter flavor.
  • Moderate the amount of fats and oils used for seasoning and cooking. Preferably use cooking in foil, microwave oven, steam cooking, etc. Use seasoning fats preferably raw, preferring fats of vegetable origin and especially extra virgin olive oil.

The Healthy Eating Plate is a tool to help creating balanced meals:

  • Make most of your meal vegetables and fruits – ½ of your plate. Aim for color and variety.
  • Go for whole grains – ¼ of your plate.
  • Protein power – ¼ of your plate. Fish, poultry, eggs and beans are all healthy, versatile protein sources. Limit red meat and avoid processed meats.
  • Healthy plant oils – in moderation. Choose healthy vegetable oils and avoid partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Drink water, coffee, or tea. Skip sugary drinks, limit milk and dairy products to one to two servings per day.
  • Stay active. The red figure running across the Healthy Eating Plate’s placemat is a reminder that staying active is also important in weight control.
  1. It is not true that fruit after meals is bad.

Eating fruit during or at the end of a meal can even be positive, because the vitamin C present in it improves the absorption of iron in vegetables, cleanses the mucous membrane of the mouth and teeth, and can be a pleasant, sweet but not excessively caloric after meal.

  1. It is not true that fruit «swells»

Only people who have specific intestinal bloating problems can benefit from taking fruit between meals.

  1. It is not true that fruit juice replaces fresh fruit

Even when made from 100% fruit, juices are particularly lacking in fiber and have a much lower satiating power than the whole fruit.

  1. It is not true that whole grain products are significantly lower in calories than refined ones

Fber has a greater satiating power which helps us eat less.

  1. It is not true that white flour is a poison that causes cancer or diabetes

It is simply a product with a less important amount of fiber.

  1. It is not true that margarine is «light»

It is rich in saturated fatty acids. It is always preferable to use extra virgin olive oil for its important properties.