A More Diverse Food Pyramid

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Obesity is a world problem and as of 2006, one in ten adults worldwide were considered obese. I suppose this should not be surprising since the appeal of the American diet for good and for bad has spread around the world.

For those that come to live in the U.S., learning to blend favorite foods from the country of origin with newfound American fare can be difficult. Dietitians are finding wonderful teaching assistance from reshaped food pyramids that focus on healthy eating guidelines for Asian, Latino, and Mediterranean eating preferences.

Oldways Preservation Trust is "dedicated to changing the way people eat through practical and positive programs grounded in science and tradition." Their core health promotion programs include The Whole Grains Council, The Latino Nutrition Coalition and The Mediterranean Foods Alliance. Oldways has worked with several other organizations to reshape the US Food Pyramid for other cultural eating preferences. Here are some of the differences.

In 1993 a Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was created and was most recently updated in 2008. At the base of this pyramid, you find all plant based foods, which indicate they should be the foundation of the meal just as being physically active is the foundation for healthy living. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds and legumes provide a great deal of whole food choices. Olive oil, herbs, and spices are also recommended as part of the base because of their ability to increase palatability as well as having health promoting attributes. The next levels provide separations between various animal based protein sources. Fish and shellfish selected several times a week provide omega-3 benefits to Mediterranean style eating. Tuna, herring, salmon, or shrimp would typically not be batter coated or fried but grilled, broiled or poached instead. Cheeses and yogurts are regular selections and for some low-fat sources are included daily. Eggs and poultry are typically recommended choices to include a couple times a week and other meat options and sweets are choices recommended less often. Drinking water is recommended and wine frequently is as well.

The Asian Diet Pyramid is very similar to the Mediterranean pyramid and was the second developed at an International Conference and introduced in 1995. Many Asian diet principles are rooted in religious practices as well as long-standing customs so each region has its own distinct cooking styles and flavors. Rice provides a basis for most Asian diets so it and other grains such as noodles, millet, and corn make up the base of the Asian pyramid. Those along with fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, and nuts as well as vegetable oils make up daily meal and snack selections. Animal sources of protein like fish and shellfish are common in areas with extensive coastlines and so is dairy especially in India and they are recommended to include several times a week in the Asian eating style. Poultry, eggs and sweets are more popular in some areas compared to others but are recommended for weekly selection in many areas while other meat sources are only consumed on an infrequent basis. Daily physical activity is recommended and so are six glasses of water or tea. Sake, wine, or beers are also included in Asian eating but moderation is recommended.

The Latin American Diet Pyramid was the third pyramid developed and it was first introduced in 1996. This pyramid is very similiar to the Mediterranean pyramid and also places importance on daily physical activity. Plant based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, tubers, pasta, beans and nuts are also recognized as the base of the diet and are recommended to be the basis of every meal. The Latin American diet includes fish, shellfish, plant oils, dairy and poultry choices on a daily basis with other meats, eggs and sweets only selected on a weekly basis. Water is also recommended and alcohol intake is recognized but encouraged only in moderation.

While there are some small differences between these pyramids, grains, fruits and vegetables do provide the basis of all three. However, in contrast to the most recent U.S. Food Guide Pyramid, they also recognize other plant based items such as nuts and seeds as a basis of the diet as well. The new updated Dietary Guidelines are due later this year and with it most likely an updated Food Guide Pyramid. It will be interesting to see if it looks more like these other three pyramids with an increased emphasis on a plant-based diet.

Did you know there were other versions of the food guide pyramid? How do you expect the new My Pyramid 2010 version to look compared to the others?