November 6, 2011

My Own Food Pyramid!

Food guides:  whether a plate, a pyramid, a pagoda, or a rainbow – everyone seems to have their opinion these days on what we all should eat.   I get asked all the time about what I think of the new USDA “Plate Method” that took over this year.  Big changes like this demand attention and explanation.  The USDA is telling you what to eat.  What do they mean?   Where did it come from?  Complaints about the old pyramid centered on the fact that it was confusing and didn’t really explain how to eat.  The plate method is a more approachable way to visualize how your actual plate should look at any given meal.  It is a good idea in theory.

Basically, this model gives you a feasible example of how you can set up your own plate at any meal of the day in an effort to get the nutrition you need.  The bottom line is:  eat mostly vegetables and fruit with smaller, equal portions of protein and grains/starch at every meal.  And always have a side of dairy.  I like it because it is more visual and realistic to follow than a pyramid, but it’s not without its flaws. 

I’ve been working on my own pyramid for a while.  It’s definitely not an easy task, telling the general public what to eat.  How do you take dietary preferences, health, culture, and enjoyment into consideration for all ages and lifestyles for a public as diverse as ours?  All I can do is present what I have learned in school and what I experience in practice.  I am not sponsored by anyone – I don’t base my information off of what anyone else says it should be.  
Ginger's Pyramid

Basically, I went back to the pyramid.  I like it as a snapshot of the types of foods to consume in a whole day.  I put the foods I think we should consume the most at the bottom (grains/starch and veg) and I give an example of some of my favorites in each category.  Are the lists exhaustive?  Not by a long shot;   they are more of an example of some choices you could include.  Next up is fruit and protein in the same line.  I believe it is incredibly important to take into consideration alternative protein sources to meat.  Further, in my opinion, dairy fits into the protein category.  It is not a necessary part of our diet – it is a choice like consuming animal protein, legumes, or tofu.  You can have a perfectly healthy, balanced diet without dairy – many people do.  If you enjoy it and tolerate it, it can be a great source of protein and minerals for you.  Fat comes next – all types of fat.  I suggest experimentation with new types in your cooking.  Finally, there is a flavor category.  Have a glass of wine!  Use honey to sweeten when needed!   Drink a cup of coffee!  These are add-ons that have a place, within reason, to any day if you like.

I don’t like that my “Limit” list is so large.  There are not many foods I like to limit, but these ones truly deserve their place on my inverted pyramid.  Soda and juice – why drink them EVER?  Fake sugar…  Avoid all the RED/YELLOW/BLUE dyes and preservatives used to extend the life of foods that would naturally expire.  Candy and corn syrup:  so hard to avoid, yet so important to our health.  The rest seem self-explanatory to me – basically, processed food or food that has been treated with disrespect or lack of care should be limited in my opinion.  We all eat these foods sometimes  – I do.  That’s why they are in the “limit” category.  Limit is not “never”.

This rough pyramid is my personal interpretation.  Obviously, there is no perfect outline for every person and the format needs to be continuously updated as new information surfaces.  If you need an example of how to set up a meal, look at the plate model!  If you need a general outline, check out a pyramid.  If you have any questions or need some individualization..... make an appointment with a registered dietitian (RD). 


  1. Thanks Ginger, this pyramid is completely applicable to a vegetarian diet! What about cheese? Is it a Fat or Protein?

  2. Such a great question! I would count it as a fat, myself. I see cheese more as a condiment and less of an entree. So delicious, though...