New Food Pyramid
was brought up with a food pyramid that has
carbohydrates (rice, bread, cereal, noodles,
pasta, etc) at the bottom, and fats, oils and
sweets to be used sparingly at the very top. You
know the one. To this day, you can see it on the
backs of biscuit cans. But now I hear there is a
new food pyramid. Tell me more about this.
Yes, there’s a new food pyramid, except that the
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently
calls it a food “plate”. But first, let’s talk
about the old food pyramid so we can understand
the contrast between the old and new.
The old food pyramid is divided into four
tiers. The bottom tier, as you pointed out, has
carbohydrates in it. Bread, cereal, rice, pasta,
noodles, crackers — basically anything that is
high in carbohydrates goes into this group. You
are supposed to eat six to 11 servings of it per
day, and mind you – one serving is NOT one
plate. Example, one plate probably
contains four rice “servings”. So the term
“servings” is very misleading for most people.
The tier just directly above it is the fruit and
vegetable group. All manner of fruits and
vegetables go into this, and you are supposed to
consume two to three servings of vegetables, and
two to three servings of fruits per day.
The tier above this is the meat, poultry,
eggs and nuts group, as well as the milk, cheese
and yoghurt group. You are supposed to consume
two to three servings of the meats, and two to
three servings of the dairy products
And the highest tier belongs to the fats,
oils and sweets group. And yes, this includes
butter, cakes, and confections like chocolate.
Consume these sparingly.
I have seen food pyramids that encourage
us to consume as much of the bottom tier as
possible. Does that mean I can eat as much rice
as I like?
No. That’s why the old food pyramid is
misleading, and new data has caused
nutritionists the world over to relook it.
Consuming too much carbs can only make you
obese. Anyhow, people were never really sure how
much to consume of each category in the old
For example, during breakfast: one bowl of
cereal with milk, an apple or banana (not both),
and two pieces of toast with butter. This will
equate to one serving of dairy, one serving of
fruit, two servings of carbs, and little fat.
In actuality, there’s protein in milk as
well, and this food pyramid equation doesn’t
take account of that. And it’s quite a lot to
eat for breakfast. Dairy products also sneak
their way into all sorts of preparations, as
does sugar. And what about sauces? These contain
a whole plethora of oils, sugars, artificial
coloring, preservatives and carbs – sometimes
in very rich portions as well.
So, what about the new food pyramid?
It’s best to call them the new food pyramids!
There have been many versions. In 2005, the US
FDA decided to update the food pyramid, and this
made it even more confusing! Now, one side of
the pyramid had stairs climbing to the top of it
to denote that you must do physical activity for
a healthy lifestyle. Instead of tiers, there
were colored sections streaming from the top of
the pyramid vertically, all containing the food
groups from the old pyramid.
Confused yet? At around this time, high
glycaemic index carbs were seen as the enemy,
and it was recommended that 50% of all grain
intake should be wholegrains. (Ditch that white
bread and take multigrain instead!)
But it was problematic as well. The US FDA
recommended a 2,000 calorie per day intake
(that’s plenty much if you ask me, especially if
you are sedentary and older), and 50% of these
calories came from carbs. This is way too much
carbohydrates for most people, and will only
likely make you overweight and obese.
What is the new food plate then?
The food plate is a square plate that
signifies something you are more likely to look
at when you sit at a table (instead of a
pyramid). On this plate are four different
colored sections, and there’s even a cup for
“dairy” beside it.
The food plate itself is divided into four
different sections: vegetables, fruits (these
two form half the plate), grains and proteins
(the other half). Note the grain section has
been cut down significantly from the old food
It’s fairly confusing as well, as there are
no mentions of serving sizes, but they basically
want you to look at your plate as such. Which
means only one-quarter of your full plate should
be filled with rice/bread/noodles/pasta,
one-quarter with protein
(chicken/meat/beans/tofu), and the rest should
be vegetables and fruits (like tomatoes).
Basically, just don’t overeat. Try not to take
second helpings. Try to make your grains whole
grains. Switch to low-fat milk. And drink water
instead of any drink with sugar.