The Department of Health keeps dietary recommendations under review as part of its role in promoting evidence based public health. As part of this review, the new Healthy Food for Life – the Healthy Eating Guidelines and Food Pyramid have been developed by the Department working in partnership with other experts in nutrition in Ireland.
Healthy Food for Life is a toolkit which includes a new Food Pyramid and guidance materials to help people makes choices to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. The resources reflect best national and international evidence and advice. The guidance applies for everyone from 5 years of age upwards.
The three key messages are:
- Limit high fat, sugar and salt foods from the top shelf of the Pyramid to no more than once or twice a week
- Eat more fruit and vegetables, at least 5 to 7 servings a day
- Use the Pyramid as a guide for serving sizes and remember that portion size matters
What is the Food Pyramid?
It is a visual representation of how different foods and drinks contribute towards a healthy balanced diet. The Food Pyramid allows individuals the flexibility to choose foods and drinks from each shelf depending on their food preferences. It organises foods and drinks into 5 main shelves, starting from the most important shelf on the bottom.
What’s on the shelves?
Shelf 1. Vegetables, Salad and Fruit (at least 5 to 7 servings a day). Base your meals on these and enjoy a variety of colours. More is better. Limit fruit juice to unsweetened, once a day.
Shelf 2. Wholemeal Cereals and Breads, Potatoes, Pasta and Rice (3–5 servings a day, up to 7 for teenage boys and men age 19–50). Wholemeal and wholegrain cereals are best. Enjoy at each meal.
Shelf 3. Milk, Yogurt and Cheese (3 servings a day and 5 from the age of 9 to 18) Choose reduced-fat or low-fat varieties. Choose low fat milk and yogurt more often than cheese. Enjoy cheese in small amounts.
Shelf 4. Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Beans and Nuts (2 servings a day) 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.
Shelf 5. Fats, Spreads and Oils (In very small amounts) 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.
What about the 6th shelf?
The revised Food Pyramid separates the Top Shelf from the rest of the pyramid. The Top Shelf includes foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt. These are not needed for good health and should not be consumed every day. Very small amounts once or twice a week maximum is sufficient.
Is the Food Pyramid a guide for everyone?
The Food Pyramid provides guidance for adults, teenagers and children aged five and over.
How do I use the Food Pyramid?
Use the Food Pyramid to plan your daily food choices. 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.
Following the Food Pyramid doesn’t mean that you need to achieve 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.
The Food Pyramid is supported by a large range of other materials to help convey the key messages for anybody that is interested. These include some sample Food Pyramid to Daily Meal Plans which you can download (pdf format) by clicking any of the following links: