We know that all parents have the best intentions to fill their child’s plate with healthy, nutritious food and provide a balanced diet for them. However when you come home from work, or are busy keeping an entire house running, juggling between chef, clean-up crew, teacher, and referee, it is hard to be a nutritionist too! You have definitely seen the colorful food pyramid that contains a variety of food options and blocks of different sizes, but let's face it, we often found it confusing to implement in our everyday meal planning. So rather than planning meals around a food pyramid that may be harder to put into practice, you can instead refer to the simplified food plate instead. This plate is designed to make it easy to plan what types of food to include in each meal that you eat. The goal is to provide you with options and practical ways to apply the principles of a balanced diet to your daily life.
Here are some of the key differences to help you transition from pyramid to plate when planning your family meals:
- Grains are given less weightage: While the food pyramid was dominated by grains and traditional carbohydrates at the base of the pyramid, the plate version has one fourth demarcated for grains, and emphasizes whole grains. Instead, the focus and priority is on fruits and vegetables, which together form half the plate.
- There is no section for fats, oils or sugars: These would appear at the very tip of the earlier food pyramid, to communicate the small quantities we should consume. However the reason these are no longer represented on the plate, is because we do not want families to see these as items for daily consumption. Instead, it is encouraged to reserve these for occasions and to be given at parents’ discretion.
- The food plate focuses on nutrients as well as food groups, e.g. proteins are found in various foods. This is to further simplify our understanding of our body’s protein requirement. The plate indicates that roughly a quarter of our diet should consist of protein-rich food items.
It is important to remember that food pyramids, food plates and nutrition guidelines in general are created with the general population in mind. It helps to adjust them by choosing foods that meet the family preferences within the food groups. Accept that your family’s health concerns, lifestyle, stage of life and requirements may differ, but you can still aim for balanced meals and a variety of foods within each of the food groups. Remember, physical activity is equally important for living a balanced and healthy life.
To summarize, a balanced diet involves:
- Plenty of vegetables and fruit
- Whole-grain cereals and breads wherever possible
- Some milk, yoghurt and cheese
- Some meat, poultry, fish, and eggs for non-vegetarian sources or protein and beans, pulses or nuts for vegetarians
- A very small amount of fats and oils
- A very small amount of food and drinks high in fats, salt and sugar