You may not know about the Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid, but in my opinion, it represents the most independent, research-based guide to nutrition available today. Other nutrition guides such as the USDA Food Pyramid are tainted by special interests such as the milk, grain, and beef industries that happen to have representatives on the USDA Advisory Committee.
Diet gurus are usually pushing supplements, the media is constantly discussing the latest fad diet, while the food industry is thinking about its bottom line, not your health (i.e. selling foods with refined carbs, which are cheaper and have a longer shelf life). Being a Yalie, it’s hard for me to promote anything with the word “Harvard” in it, but I guess I’ll make an exception here. The following is an image of the Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid, which represents 40 years of solid, independent research:
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Healthy foods are vegetables, fruits, lean meats, healthy oils, grains, nuts & beans, and low fat dairy. Vegetables, fruit, and grains at the base of the Pyramid should form the bulk of your food intake. American staples such as salty foods, deep fried anything, fatty, processed meats like hamburgers, and refined carbs like white bread, pasta, or rice ideally should be eaten sparingly, or avoided while alcohol should be consumed in moderation.
You will be amazed at how much healthy food you can eat, and how long your hunger will be satisfied, while still keeping your calories in check. I think the Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid is idealized, in that it’s hard to get a perfect balance of the quality of foods as it suggests, but in future posts, I will make eating healthier less daunting for you. It’s really not that bad if you know some tricks to make it easier.
I want to make clear that healthy eating is obviously desirable, but it does not necessarily translate into a leaner body. What I personally strive for is eating in a way that’s healthy AND melts fat off my body while maintaining my muscle mass. My critique of this pyramid is that protein intake is not emphasized enough for people who strength train consistently. For example, some studies show protein intake as high as 1.75g per kilogram of body weight (0.8g per pound) is desirable for active individuals who strength train to maintain, or increase lean muscle mass. Harvard is a lot more concerned with disease prevention, not how to get a six pack! In addition, your total calorie intake is an important determinant of whether or not you lose fat (even if you are eating healthy) and also your frequency of eating.
I introduced you to this pyramid because I want you to understand what research has proven to be the “ideal” healthy food intake for long term health. What constitutes healthy nutrition is incredibly controversial (for example, there are tons of people who believe any grain intake is a HUGE mistake), but I must go with the 40 years of independent research. One more quick thing to mention- you may have noticed that exercise is actually at the base of the pyramid, which serves as the foundation of effective, sustainable weight control.
For much more on the Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid, you can check out the website here: Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid.
P.S. Does your food intake look anything like this Pyramid? What areas of your nutrition can you improve?