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An Alternative to the USDA Food Pyramid

If you haven’t figured it out already, the USDA Food Pyramid will not help you achieve your goals. As health enthusiasts we know that the amount of carbs (6-11 servings of grains) that they recommend are just too many. If you are not convinced that the USDA food pyramid is unhealthy, then please take some time to read this post.

For the rest of us, I have developed an alternative to the food pyramid. My version of the pyramid does not talk about specific servings. Instead, it’s a step by step method in developing your own unique diet that works for you.

Eat 90% Healthy

The base of the pyramid tells you to eat 90% healthy. When people come up to me and ask me how many calories they should be eating or how much protein to consume, I ask them what they are eating. Many times they say they are eating healthy, but are unable to name all the foods they consume. Some people are actually able to name all their foods. You know these are the people that are in some way tracking their foods.

  • I like to use a service such as theDailyplate.com to track my food. Online services help you manage your dietary intake better then just simply writing everything down on a notepad, then manually researching the foods.
  • For beginners, it is crucial that you track your foods for the first three months, but as you begin to understand the nature of nutrition itself, you can lighten up a little with all the measuring and analysis.
  • I personally choose three to five days per month to make sure that 90% of my calories are coming from healthy sources. If something is awry, then I adjust.

Adjust Calories

Once you have a strong understanding of how exactly to eat healthy, and are able to do it on a regular basis without putting much thought into the process, it’s time to see whether or not your caloric intake fits your goals.

Macro-nutrient Ratios

Now we get to the nitty gritty. Macro-nutrient ratios are the percentage of protein, carbs, and fat that you consume in your diet.

  • For example, if you are consuming a total of 2000 calories with 150 grams of protein, then 30% of your calories are coming from protein (150 x 4 = 600, 600/2000 = .3).
  • The media has hounded macros as being the number one concern when it comes to being healthy. The truth is, there is no set percentage that you should follow.
  • I personally follow a moderate carbohydrate, moderate protein, and moderate fat diet. So technically, I eat in moderation. If at one meal I consumed too many carbs, then I know I need to balance it out with some protein and healthy fats in my next meal.
  • I have found that on some days that I cheat on my diet, I am actually leaner the day after. Your body cannot live on just one magic vitamin, mineral, or nutrient. Keep things balanced.

Supplements

I am not abhorrently against supplements, although I do think that people need to take less of them. I think that most people follow a reverse pyramid, in that they rely on supplements to cover their bad eating habits.

  • Supplements should be used as a last resort and are often better used by athletes who are training hard for an event or competition.
  • Bodybuilders should use fat burners during their pre-contest phase. UFC fighters can take BCAA’s and other recovery products to help their bodies recover during intense training.
  • The regular gym goer does not need a suitcase full of drugs. Forget about the green tea extract and the super powerful Hydroxyfluf if you’re eating pizza and booze on the weekends with your buddies over a game of poker.

An architect knows that without a strong foundation, a building will not stand. Develop a strong base of healthy eating, and you’ll be successful in your nutrition.