Food Guide Pyramid

The emphasis on health care has long since evolved. From taking care of the sick patient to achieve wellness, what is now stressed is promoting the wellness of people and as much as possible, keeping them from ever becoming ill as well. Teachings are focused on healthy habits, and this includes the importance of maintaining a healthy diet.

Knowledge of nutrients and the basic principles of nutrition is important in the role of patient teaching for disease prevention and health promotion. The four basic food groups and their placement on a pyramid serve as a guide to basic, healthy nutrition.

Key Principles

The following are several important principles to keep in mind when pertaining to the food guide pyramid.

  • Nutrients, including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals have specific functions within the body. They work together to provide energy, regulate metabolic processes, and synthesize tissues.
  • Nutrition influences all body systems both favorable and unfavorably. Examples of unfavorable effects include the link between cholesterol and heart disease or salt intake and high blood pressure. Favorable effects are many, such as the association of fiber intake with improved gastrointestinal (GI) function and the role of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, in preventing cancer.
  • Nutritional needs vary in response to metabolic changes, age, sex, growth periods, stress (trauma, disease, pregnancy, lactation), and physical condition.
  • Dietary and vitamin supplements may be needed depending on disease states, dietary intake, and other factors.
  • The types of foods eaten and eating patterns are developed during a lifetime and are determined by psychosocial, cultural, religious, and economic influences.
  • The nurse works with the dietitian or nutritionist to promote optimum nutrition for each patient.

Basic Food Groups and Food Pyramid

The basic food groups were developed in 1958. It consists of grains, vegetables and fruits, meat, and milk. A fifth group is considered when looking at fat in the diet. A well-balanced diet consists of foods coming from every group.

As a response to the ever increasing scientific knowledge with regards to the connection of diet and disease, the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the Food Guide Pyramid in 1992, which was restructured in 2005, and replaced just recently, in 2011. The food guide pyramid, as you can tell from its name, has a pyramid or triangular shape and it is a nutrition guide separated into parts to illustrate the suggested intake for every food group.

The food guide pyramid shows an increased emphasis on carbohydrates in the form of grains, fruits, and vegetables as primary food sources, with a decreased emphasis on meats, dairy-products, and fats.

Furthermore, seven basic dietary guidelines have been created to promote sound eating habits and optimal health. These are:

  • Eat different kinds of food.
  • Keep within healthy weight.
  • Opt for a low-fat diet, and avoid cholesterol and saturated fat.
  • Pick a diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
  • Control sugar intake.
  • Control salt and sodium consumption.
  • Control consumption of alcoholic beverages.

 Image courtesy of nal.usda.gov

Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

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