One of the key essential things required to stay healthy mentally and physically is eating a healthy diet. Our bodies require seven nutrients: fats, carbohydrates, water, dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and proteins.
People often fail to maintain a healthy diet due to various reasons. Some of these reasons could be lack of time due to our busy schedule, competing priorities, high cost of healthy food, and adjusting our habits/micro habits to maintain a healthy diet.
Eating healthy has to be a lifestyle, our everyday way of life. Knowing exactly what to eat, what content to eat, and making this a daily habit could challenge some people.
A food pyramid acts as a guide, offering various options to choose from depending on our food/drink preferences.
A healthy diet is just a proportion of our bodies’ nutritional needs. The only type of food that contains all the nutrients the body needs is breast milk. Therefore, to get a wide range of the nutrients our body needs, our diet has to contain various food types.
To eat healthily ensures that your body takes in an equal number of calories to those being used by the body. Any consumed but unused calories are stored as fat. This can therefore lead to weight gain, a reason as to why some people are obese.
Most people fail at healthy eating because:
- We fail to allocate enough time for our taste buds to change. It is somewhat difficult to change our food preferences, for instance, switching from red meat to a healthier alternative or taking less salt. Cravings for healthier food come eventually if we are patient enough.
- Lack of proper planning. We have to take time to plan and prepare for the new lifestyle. You have to do your research on how to maintain a healthy diet and get your facts right. Going forth without a proper guide or plan will eventually fail.
- Being too impatient for results. Any result depending on whatever objective you have, for instance, gaining or losing weight, obviously takes time, especially if you are doing it the right way. Most people get impatient and fall back to old eating habits after just a few days of eating healthy.
What is a food pyramid?
This is a visual representation of the ideal number of daily servings from each basic food group. It was first published in Sweden in 1974. The one introduced by the USDA in 1992 was called the eating right pyramid. Canada introduced it in 1942, intending to improve the health of Canadians in response to war rations for food.
It is referred to as a pyramid because it is shaped like one.
It consists of layers representing the major food groups that contribute to a total diet. It shows the serving sizes for the food to be eaten daily to stay healthy. A food pyramid shows you what food to eat and gives you a proper guide on the right amount to eat.
How does the food pyramid help individuals eat healthily?
- It tells you the exact food to eat and what quantity you can take.
- It also illustrates the chemicals and additives put in food so that one can plan on a diet with more natural ingredients,
- It helps you plan your diet by giving guidelines on calories, minerals, and vitamins you can consume in a day.
The food pyramid layers
- The base. This consists of starch-rich foods that give energy. Examples of starch-rich food are cereals, potatoes, bread, and rice.
- The second layer. This layer consists of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which are essential in helping us avoid illnesses. It is advisable always to take fresh fruits and vegetables; it lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure.
- The third layer. This one contains dairy foods like milk and cheese. It also provides an alternative like soy milk. Dairy foods contain calcium, an essential nutrient for strong bones and teeth, nerve signals, and muscle movement.
- The fourth layer consists of proteins like fish, meat, chicken, and eggs. Our organs, muscles, and tissues to our bones, skin, and hair have proteins. It is a key element of the processes that fuel energy and carry oxygen through our bodies. Proteins also help in the making of antibodies that fight infection and disease. Proteins also keep the body cells healthy and help in creating new ones.
- The thin layer. This layer consists of fats and oil like butter and nuts. Fats play an important role in storing energy, absorbing nutrients, and supporting cell growth.
Although water is not included in most food pyramids, it is just as critical. It is one thing we can’t live without. 60% of our body is made up of water. It helps:
- prevent and relieve constipation
- lubricates joints
- regulates body temperature
- boosts performance during exercise
- prevents kidney damage.
- Flushes body waste through sweating and removal of urine and feces
- Helps in the digestive system.
- Form saliva and mucus
- Delivers oxygen throughout the body.
- It boosts skin health and beauty.
Shift to a healthier diet
Our bodies may take a while to adjust to healthy eating fully. This depends on son how big the lifestyle change is. For this reason, you must try and be really patient with yourself.
To be easier to switch to a healthier diet, the food pyramid offers a range of options for you to choose from. This ensures that even as you eat healthily, you also get to enjoy your food.
Simple steps to start eating healthier
- know that it’s a process. Acknowledging that change will not happen overnight but will instead require patience and commitment will really help. Staying positive and celebrating every tiny growth towards your goal will help make the transition a lot of fun.
- Cut yourself some slack. Don’t feel guilty when you succumb to your cravings once in a while, especially if you’ve been otherwise maintaining a healthy diet.
- Get support from friends and/or family. Trying something new with someone makes it fun and way easier.
- Find inspiration. Try out new restaurants, new cookbooks, and food magazines.
- Learn to prepare your food. This makes it fun and easier for you to control exactly what you eat.
The food pyramid, India’s perspective
The difference in the diet from the far east and other parts of the world led to the customization of the food pyramid. The first one to be used by Indians was known as the Yr. Asian Pyramid.
The Indian food pyramid contains nine layers, unlike the usual one with just five. Almost every Asian diet has a familiar eating pattern of strong spices, vegetables, spices, rice, noodles, and soy products.
Aside from following the food pyramid, you should also exercise. Working out and eating healthy go hand in hand. Probably you’ve been forced to follow a strict diet after being diagnosed with an illness, you intend to lose/gain weight, or you want to stay healthy or avoid illness. Whatever the motivation, you should make it a personal initiative to stick to the cause.
Exercise delivers nutrients to your body tissues hence an important activity to partake in as you take a healthy diet. Exercise decreases your total body fat hence slowing down the development of abdominal obesity.
You can also seek the help of a nutritionist. They can help us learn more about staying healthy and selecting the correct food. Nutritionists can also aid in meal planning, recipes, grocery lists and even suggest food stores with healthier options.
A nutritionist/dietitian has professional know-how to help you learn healthy behaviors, habits and identify harmful ones.
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