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Unlocking the Pyramid Mysteries

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid isn’t an ancient mystery, it’s a modern tool you can turn to daily for a common sense nutritional direction. Many parents use the pyramid as a guide to what their family should be eating each day; yet it can still leave some with nagging questions: How much is a serving size? What is a healthy vegetable, fruit or grain? We’ve got some answers that will guide you through the USDA Dietary Guidelines and keep you and your family on track with a healthy diet.

The official USDA guidelines describe a healthy diet as one that simplyNot only that, they get a taste for fresh, wholesome ingredients. The earlier kids become accustomed to nutritious foods, the less likely they will acquire a taste for processed foods.

The official USDA guidelines describe a healthy diet as one that simply
•   Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk
    and milk products
•   Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
•   Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt or sodium,
    and added refined sugars

That direction seems easy enough to understand, yet for many,
the types and portion sizes of fruits, vegetables and grains cause
the most concern.
In a nutshell, on average:
•   Children between 2 and 8 years old should get 3 servings of vegetables,
    3-4 servings of fruit and 2-5 servings of grains each day
•   Children 9 – 13 should get 4-6 servings of vegetables, 3-4 servings of fruit
    and 3-5 servings of grains each day
•   Teens and adults should eat 5-6 servings of veggies, 3-4 servings of fruit
    and 3-6 servings of grains
•   Those 51 and older should reduce each category by one serving daily

An individual serving from the Vegetable Group is:•  1 cup of leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce,
    collard/turnip/mustard greens – Fresh, frozen or canned
•   ½ cup of other vegetables such as green beans, onions or iceberg
    lettuce, cooked or raw
•   ¾ cup of vegetable juice (limit this to 1-2 servings a day)
•   ½ cup of red and orange vegetables, like tomatoes, red peppers,
    carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash or pumpkin

An individual serving from the Fruit Group includes:
•    1 medium apple, banana or orange (larger pieces count as 2 servings)
•    ½ cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
•    ¾ cup of fruit juice (limit this to 1-2 servings a day)
•    ¼ cup of dried fruit, like raisins

Grains should be whole grains at least half of the time.Kids thrive on feeling
accomplished. Cooking is an ideal way to boost self-worth and teach responsibility.
There is nothing cuter than watching children proudly serving their food to others.

Grains should be whole grains at least half of the time.Measure out:
•   ½ cup cooked rice, bulgur wheat, pasta, cooked cereal
•   1 oz. dry rice, pasta or dry grain
•   1 slice bread
•   1 small muffin (1 oz.)
•   1 cup ready-to-eat cereal

Fitting in the Fruits (and Veggies)
So how do you eat that many servings a day of the good-for-you stuff? It can seem an enormous task, especially if your family is hooked on fast food or convenience meals.

So – mix it up and mix it in!

The idea isn’t to eat 3 cups of berries in a sitting. Aim for variety at every meal and use fruits or vegetables as a replacement for empty-calorie snacks.

•   Start lunch and dinner with a salad – or have salad as dessert
•   Make a fresh fruit salad and keep it in the frig as a quick snack
•   Make every plate a colorful mix of greens, reds and yellows
•   Focus on the week – not the day – and average out your dietary requirements to
    match your hunger

Remember, the goal is healthy eating that supports a lifetime of pleasure. A diet that’s focused on plant-based foods tends to be lower in calories, higher in fiber, and reduces your risk of chronic diseases. Those are benefits you can embrace for life.

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