Food Pyramid: Find the Right Balance for You

Daily portions of each of the food groups
will vary from person to person

Unbalanced Food Pyramid

Most people should eat more starchy foods, more fruit and vegetables, and less fat, meat products and sugary foods. It is almost impossible to give exact amounts that you should eat, as every person's requirements vary, depending on size, age and the amount of energy expended during the day.

However, nutrition experts have suggested an ideal balance of the different foods that provide us with energy (calories) and the nutrients needed for health. The number of daily portions of each of the food groups will vary from person to person—for example, an active teenager might need to eat up to 14 portions of starchy carbohydrate foods every day, whereas a sedentary adult would only require 6 or 7 portions—but the proportions of the food groups in relation to each other should ideally stay the same.

Food on the plate

A simple way to get the balance right, however, is to imagine a daily "plate" divided into the different food groups. On the imaginary "plate," starchy carbohydrate foods fill at least a third of the space, thus constituting the main part of your meals. Fruit and vegetables fill the same amount of space. The remaining third of the "plate" is divided mainly between protein foods and dairy foods, with just a little space allowed for foods containing fat and sugar. These are the proportions to aim for.

It isn't essential to eat the ideal proportions on the "plate" at every meal, or even every day—balancing them over a week or two is just as good. This will ensure that the body receives the steady supply of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals required to stay well. The healthiest diet for you and your family is one that is generally balanced and sustainable in the long term.

Daily energy requirements
in adult life

Daily calorie needs vary according to age, sex and lifestyle. To maintain an ideal body weight, we need to balance the calories we consume with the energy we expend.

Men
18-34 years sendentary 2510 kcal
  active 2900 kcal
  very active 3350 kcal
35-64 years sendentary 2400 kcal
  active 2750 kcal
  very active 3350 kcal
65-74 years sendentary 2330 kcal
75+ years sendentary 2100 kcal
Women
18-54 years sendentary 1940 kcal
  active 2150 kcal
  very active 2500 kcal
  pregnant 2400 kcal
  breastfeeding 2750 kcal
55-74 years sendentary 1900 kcal
  active 2000 kcal
75+ years sendentary 1810 kcal