The Food Pyramid shows how much of what you eat overall should come from each shelf to achieve a healthy, balanced diet.
The shape of the Food Pyramid shows the types of foods and drinks people need to eat most for healthy eating. It is divided into six shelves and each provides you with the range of nutrients and energy needed for good health. Healthy eating is all about choosing the right amounts from each shelf.
Many of the foods you eat, such as pizzas, casseroles, pasta dishes and sandwiches, are a combination of the food shelves. For these sorts of foods, you just need to work out the main ingredients and think about how these fit with shelves on the Food Pyramid.
Following the Food Pyramid doesn’t mean that you need to achieve this balance with every meal, but aim to get the balance right over the day and over the week. Small changes can make a big difference.
This Food Pyramid guide is for children aged 5 and over, teenagers and all adults, both healthy weight and overweight. As two out of three Irish adults are overweight there is a list of top tips to help overweight adults get to a healthy weight on the back page.
Vegetables, Salad And Fruit
This is the biggest shelf and is at the bottom of the Food Pyramid so you need to choose more of these.
Wholemeal Cereals And Breads, Potatoes, Pasta And Rice
The foods on this shelf provide the best energy for your body to work. Energy needs are different throughout life and this shelf covers a wide choice of foods. Follow the Daily Servings Guide opposite carefully to make sure you’re getting the right amount for you depending on:
• your age
• if you’re male or female
• if you’re active or inactive
• if you’re a healthy weight or overweight.
You may be surprised by the amount of servings you can have from this shelf. It may seem like a lot but these wholemeal foods are healthy choices and are recommended to give you energy instead of choosing unhealthy high calorie foods and drinks from the Top Shelf.
The Food Pyramid
1. Foods And Drinks High In Fat, Sugar And Salt
This is the smallest shelf and is at the top of the Food Pyramid so people need to choose very little of these – not every day, maximum once or twice a week only. They are not needed for health and may promote overweight and obesity.
Most people consume snacks high in fat, sugar and salt and sugar sweetened drinks up to 6 times a day (Healthy Ireland Survey). There are no recommended servings for Top Shelf foods and drinks because they are not needed for good health
Drink at least 8 cups of fluid a day – water is best.
2. Fats, Spreads And Oils
Second smallest shelf from the top of Food Pyramid. Use as little as possible. Choose mono or polyunsaturated reduced‑fat or light spreads. Choose rapeseed, olive, canola, sunflower or corn oils. Limit mayonnaise, coleslaw and salad dressings as they also contain oil. Always cook with as little fat or oil as possible – grilling, oven-baking, steaming, boiling or stir-frying.
3. Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Beans And Nuts
Choose lean meat, poultry (without skin) and fish. Eat oily fish up to twice a week. Choose eggs, beans and nuts. Limit processed salty meats such as sausages, bacon and ham.
4. Milk, Yogurt And Cheese
Choose reduced-fat or low-fat varieties. Choose low‑fat milk and yogurt more often than cheese. Enjoy cheese in small amounts. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need 3 servings a day.
5. Wholemeal Cereals And Breads, Potatoes, Pasta And Rice
Wholemeal and wholegrain cereals are best. Enjoy at each meal. The number of servings depends on age, size, if you are a man or a woman and on activity levels. Watch your serving size and use the Daily Servings Guide*.
6. Vegetables, Salad And Fruit
Base your meals on these and enjoy a variety of colours. More is better. Limit fruit juice to unsweetened, once a day.
Small Size Servings
Small or fun-size servings of chocolate, biscuits, cakes, sweets, crisps and other savory snacks, ice cream, and sugary drinks – not every day, maximum once or twice a week.
One (1) Serving Size Is:
1 portion pack reduced fat or light spread for 2 slices of bread
1 teaspoon oil per person when cooking
50-75g cooked lean beef, lamb, pork, mince or poultry (half size of palm of hand)
100g cooked fish, soya or tofu
3/4 cup beans or lentils
40g unsalted nuts or seeds
1 glass (200ml) milk
One carton (125g) yogurt
1 bottle (200ml) yogurt drink
2 thumbs (25g) hard or semi-hard cheese such as cheddar or edam
2 thumbs (25g) soft cheese such as brie or camembert
2 thin slices wholemeal bread, 1 1/2 slices wholemeal soda bread or 1 pitta pocket
1/2 cup dry porridge oats or 1/2 cup unsweetened muesli
1 cup flaked type breakfast cereal
1 cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles or cous cous
2 medium or 4 small potatoes, 1 cup yam or plantain
1 medium sized fruit – apple, orange, pear or banana
2 small fruits – plums, kiwis or mandarin oranges
Small fruits – 6 strawberries, 10 grapes or 16 raspberries
1/2 cup cooked vegetables – fresh or frozen
1 bowl salad – lettuce, tomato, cucumber
1 bowl homemade vegetable soup
150ml unsweetened fruit juice