Fitting eating into pyramid plan not all that hard

December 02, 1997|By Lynn F. Little

Fitting eating into pyramid plan not all that hard

The Food Guide Pyramid, a guide to daily food choices, translates general nutrition advice into healthy meals. Trying to meet all the recommended servings in the Food Guide Pyramid sometimes intimidates us, but it shouldn't. We look at the number of servings for the various food groups in the pyramid and say, "I can't possibly eat all that food!"

First of all, we tend to overestimate how much food makes up a serving. For example, one serving from the bread and cereal group might be 3/4 cup of cereal, a single slice of bread or 3 to 4 plain crackers.

A single serving of meat should be 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat. That's about the size of a deck of playing cards.


Many of us eat portions of meat, fish and poultry that are significantly larger than the serving sizes used in the Food Guide Pyramid. By becoming familiar with serving sizes, we can find it easier to meet the recommended daily amounts of food.

The second misunderstanding we have about the Pyramid involves the number of recommended servings - not everyone needs to eat the maximum number of recommended servings. The pyramid provides a range of servings based on an individual's age and activity level. Each person needs to adjust the number of servings to a calorie level that's right for his or her own personal needs:

* Sedentary women and some older adults need about 1,600 calories a day.

* Children, teenage girls, active women and many sedentary men need about 2,200 calories a day. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding may need slightly more than 2,200 calories a day.

* Teenage boys, active men and very active women will need about 2,800 calories a day.

Following is a sample menu illustrating how a moderately active woman could meet all her Food Guide Pyramid serving recommendations.


3/4 cup orange juice

1 ounce whole grain cereal with 1/2 sliced banana

1 cup skim milk

beverage of choice


Chicken sandwich (2 ounces skinless breast, 2 teaspoons mayonnaise, 2 slices whole-wheat bread)

1/2 cup cooked carrots

1 teaspoon margarine

1 medium apple

4 small whole-wheat crackers

beverage of choice


3-ounce pork chop

1/2 cup green beans

1 medium baked potato

1 teaspoon margarine

1 slice angel food cake with sliced peaches

1 cup skim milk


1/2 cup apple juice

3 cups popcorn

2 graham crackers

This menu provides 1,880 calories, 85 grams protein, 277 grams carbohydrates (54 percent of calories), 58 grams fat (28 percent of calories), 19 grams saturated fat (9 percent of calories) 160 milligrams cholesterol, 24 grams fiber, 1,670 milligrams sodium.

Adults should use the "3/4's Rule" every day, filling three-fourths of their plate with complex carbohydrates, including grains, fruits and vegetables, and one-fourth of their plate with lean protein.

Use the "Rules of Three" to eat carbohydrates daily: 3 whole grains, 3 starches, 3 fruits, 3 vegetables, 3 dairy and up to 3 proteins.

Select 2 to 4 grains per meal to achieve the recommended 6 to 11 servings daily.

Remember, these are only guidelines. Eat what you like from the food groups to receive proper nutrition.

If you'd like a copy of the Food Guide Pyramid with information regarding calorie levels and serving sizes, send a self-addressed, 32-cent stamped envelope to Cooperative Extension Service, Washington County Office, 1260 Maryland Ave., Hagerstown, Md. 21740. Mark the envelope "Guide."

Maryland Cooperative Extension Service's programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is an extension educator, family and consumer sciences, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

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