Now that you understand the basics of following the pyramid, learn more ways to make this new approach work for you. Really, it just requires awareness and planning, which will become easier over time. Put the pyramid into action with these tips:
- Plan each meal around vegetables and fruits. Since they form the base of the pyramid, start with them. Look for ways to serve veggies and fruits whole, fresh and in combination with other foods. Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies most meals or have fruit or salad on the side.
- Spread servings throughout the day. Include at least one serving from most food groups at each meal.
- If you're hungry, eat! Starving yourself can be counterproductive, as it can set you up for overeating later. The pyramid allows unlimited consumption of vegetables and fruits, so focus on those when you’re hungry.
- Make pleasure a priority. Losing weight may require you to cut back on some of your favorite foods, but don’t sacrifice enjoyment. Be sure to include the flavors, colors and textures you love.
- Plan by the week. It's more efficient than day by day. That way, you can also be sure to have the right foods on hand.
- Eat 'real' food. Limit or even avoid processed foods, such as many canned and most boxed and convenience foods. Processed foods often include unwanted fat, sugar, calories and salt — as opposed to whole foods, including most frozen fruit and vegetables, which haven't been changed from their natural state and are loaded with nutrients.
- Count 'add-ons' in servings. Don't forget to include anything you put on or add to your food — such as dressings and dips for vegetables and fruits, as well as cream, milk or sugar in coffee or tea.
- Be flexible with yourself. Every food doesn't have to be a source of excellent nutrition. The point is to choose foods that promote good health and are good calorie bargains most of the time.
- Look for shortcuts. Buy pre-cut veggies and fruits, precooked meats, and shredded low-fat cheese for quick, healthy meals.
- Tomorrow is another day. If you didn't get enough veggies Monday, add extra Tuesday and Wednesday. Try not to get stuck on exact servings each day.
Beverages — including alcohol — count. When considering calories, don't forget to count the liquid form. Although some beverages, such as juice and milk, contain important nutrients, they also have a lot of calories. Water is still the best choice when it comes to satisfying thirst and cutting down on the urge to snack.
When drinking milk, choose skim. What about alcohol? In the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid, alcohol is in the sweets category.
One drink equals
- 12 ounces of regular beer (150 to 190 calories)
- 1 1/2 ounces of 80-proof liquor (95 to 110 calories)
- 5 ounces of wine (120 to 130 calories)
So if you have a drink (much more than 75 calories, the daily limit for sweets), plan on fewer sweets the rest of the week.
The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid should be used as a guide to help you to make better choices; however, it's up to you to decide how to follow it in a way that makes sense for your lifestyle, needs and goals.