Choose most foods from the bottom two shelves, smaller amounts from the next two shelves and a very small amount from the top shelf.
Using the Food Pyramid as a guide will help make sure you get all the vitamins, minerals and goodness you need from your food, as well as give you good variety in your diet.
Breads, cereals, potatoes, pasta and rice
(6 or more servings a day)
These foods are high in energy, but low in fat. It's what you put on bread or the sauce you use with pasta or rice that makes them high in fat. Choose wholegrain and whole meal varieties of bread, rolls and breakfast cereals.
Fruit and vegetables
(4 or more servings a day)
Fruit and vegetables are almost fat-free, packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre. Overcooking vegetables destroys vitamins. Try steaming, microwaving or boiling vegetables in a little water with the saucepan lid on. Frozen vegetables are just as good as fresh. Try the many ways of enjoying fruit - fresh, dried, stewed, tinned in its own juice or as fruit-juice.
Milk, cheese and yoghurt
(3 servings a day for children and adults and 5 for teenagers or for pregnant or breast-feeding mothers).
These foods are good sources of calcium and vitamin D for strong bones and protein, the building block for all parts of the body. If you are overweight or have high cholesterol, choose low-fat varieties (they have the same amount of calcium as full fat varieties).
Meat, poultry, fish and alternatives
(2 servings a day, 3 during pregnancy)
These foods are a good source of protein and iron (for healthy blood) - red meat is the richest source of iron. Choose four ounces (100 grams) of lean red meat, i.e. two servings three to four times a week. Have oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, trout, herring or salmon at least twice a week. They help thin the blood and prevent clotting.
The top shelf
(very small amounts)
Spreads - Choose a low-fat polyunsaturated or monounsaturated spread and spread it thinly. A rough guide is no more than one ounce of low-fat spread a day (roughly two to three pats). If you don’t like spread, use no more than ½ ounce of butter a day.
- Choose a pure polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oil and use it in small amounts. Oils are 100% fat and they are very high in calories.
Crisps, savoury snacks, biscuits, cakes, sweets and chocolate
- These foods are high in saturated fat. Too much saturated fat in the diet increases cholesterol levels. Many savoury snacks are also high in salt, which may cause high blood pressure. They should not replace meals but you can enjoy them as an occasional treat.
- Small amounts of alcohol may provide some protection against heart disease. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can increase blood pressure and may damage the liver and heart. Remember that alcohol is a drug and may be a risk for other health problems.
There are so many "diets" around, all claiming to have an easy solution to loosing weight. Often they can involve omitting certain foods, or even entire food groups, such as high protein diets, low fat diets, etc, sometimes based on dubious claims of "food allergy", or changing hormone patterns in the body.
These diets lack major nutrients. In the short term, those adopting these diets can loose weight (remember the energy balance mentioned earlier), but in the long term, you will become mal-nourished, probably feel energy loss, and possibly serious health problems. Once the diet is stopped, the weight goes back on, sometimes to an even higher level than what the person started with.
There is no quick fix. The key is to adopt a healthy eating pattern, and keep it for life. In addition to exercise, you will slowly and safely loose weight.