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Food Pyramid Menu Planning

By: Leigh Sexton - Updated: 20 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Food Pyramid Revised Food Pyramid Menu

Each new Food Pyramid offers some changes and they can make the average cook feel that no sooner have they mastered one system, than a new one appears to confuse their menu planning.

However, working with the Food Pyramid is good for you and your family, so familiarising yourself with the improvements to the system can really benefit your health and wellbeing.

The latest changes, for example stress exercise as a daily part of health and suggest increasing the amount, and the diversity of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains consumed daily.

New Ways to Plan Meals

Traditionally, ‘mum’ used to plan a meal around a piece of protein (meat or fish) plus a starch (potatoes, rice or noodles) a vegetable and a drink like milk, beer or wine. Today the new Food Pyramid suggests we look on meat as being more of a condiment that a main component of a meal – it should add taste and flavour, but not be the staple ingredient in menu planning.

Instead, the staples for daily menu planning should be a grain, and two vegetables, with at least one fruit, a healthy drink (fruit juice, herbal tea etc) and – if desired – a protein element like meat or fish. Reducing the amount of meat you serve can seem daunting, but by focusing on two new ideas: colour and texture – it can become much easier to plan menus.

Begin by choosing ten to fifteen recipes that are family favourites. Consider the primary colour and texture of each of those meals. Spaghetti bolognaise, for example, is primarily smooth in texture and brown/red in colour. So to add to the colour and texture of this menu, you could start the meal with a crunchy green salad, topped with black olives or golden tinned chick peas, and end it with a slice of honeydew melon or a handful of walnuts and a crisp green apple.

As your family settles into this new range of foodstuffs, you can think about reducing the amount of meat in the bolognaise sauce, by adding finely chopped leeks, grated carrot or tinned mung beans to bulk out the sauce. This gentle adjustment of a loved dish to a more healthy option can take place without your family even noticing your substitutions!

Advanced Menu Planning

To enhance your diet, most nutritionists now suggest that you bring an artist’s eye to menu planning – if you can make a dinner look like the full range of a painter's palette, you will be eating more varied and more healthy foods. If you look at what you use as ‘comfort food’ which tend to be unhealthy options such as ice-cream, chocolate, fried treats or processed meats, it often falls into a very narrow colour range of white, gold and brown – so whenever those colours appear on your plate, it’s important to balance them with greens, blues, reds and yellows.

As you move into cooking more confidently with the new Food Pyramid, you can begin to consider the nutrients that are listed as a percentage of daily values for the average person – these percentages are offered protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and sodium (salt). By finding different ways to meet the percentages across a day, a week, or a month, you can help your family to better health and expand the range of foods they eat so that they have a wider nutritional base. This can be useful in fighting disease and in equipping the very young and very old with stronger immune systems.

Expanding Dietary Diversity

Consuming the widest possible range of fruits, vegetables and grains, along with pulses and meat and dairy products, is important because nutritionists and researchers are regularly discovering new nutrients and trace elements that contribute to optimum health, as well as exploring how these nutrients, in combination, can have multiple effects in fighting disease.

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