The Food Pyramid
The food pyramid shown here can be used to remind you of the food and drinks that you should consume regularly or only occasionally.
The higher up the pyramid, the more you must moderate your intake of the food. At the bottom of the pyramid, sits water and all the ways it can be drunk, without moderation and at the top, there are all the foods that are the worst for the diet (e.g., fried foods, sugary drinks, pastries) that should be eaten very rarely.
Group 1: Water and its friends: Water, herbal teas, tea (especially green tea), decaffeinated or lightly roasted coffee, fruit juice (without added sugar) or vegetable juice can all be consumed in considerable quantity (1½ to 2 litres per day) throughout the day.
Group 2: Fruit and vegetables: Eat five servings a day. One serving of vegetables is 100–200g, or a bowl of soup. Beware of very sweet (e.g., bananas or dried fruit) or fatty (e.g., walnuts, pistachios) fruits and nuts.
Group 3: Starches and legumes: Try to eat starchy foods (e.g., rice, pasta, semolina and potatoes) and legumes (e.g., beans, peas, lentils, soya) at every meal. Favour eating pasta al dente (i.e., just cooked, Italian style) over longer cooking.
Group 4: Protein: (e.g., meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and soya products like tofu) should be eaten regularly but not in excess. Favour fish and white meats over red meats, and avoid cooking in too much fat or eating poultry skin. Semi-skimmed or fermented dairy products such as cheeses are recommended no more than twice a day.
Group 5: Fats: Choose good fats (e.g., olive, sunflower, corn, and nut oils) and limit intake of bad fats (e.g., animal fats).
Group 6: Delicacies: Eat exceptionally, but these can be good for morale! Ban fried foods.
Besides the five fruits and vegetables daily, try alternating eating meat and fish to avoid dinners that are too ‘heavy’. Try to favour certain ingredients to cook and flavour your food (e.g., use vegetable fats, fresh herbs) and try different cooking methods such as poaching, grilling or steaming.
All vegetables (lentils, peas, beans) contain protein, but the champion is soya. Soya milk and tofu are produced from its beans. Soya milk should be consumed in moderation; some types of milk can be too rich in calcium for your prostate. Tofu is a substitute for meat; and should be cooked with accompanying sauces. Healthy, lean protein can be eaten as an alternative.
You do not have to give up bread, but you can choose what kind of bread you eat. Milling and baking has progressed greatly over the past 30 years, and has provided us with a great choice and variety. Choose whole grain bread; vary the pleasures (e.g., rye, chestnut, buckwheat) and recipes (e.g., bread with grapes, walnuts, sesame, or olives). Good bread is like a cake that is eaten on its own, without being tempted by butter!
Choose Lean Meats
Animal fats are ‘bad fats’. Choose so-called lean meats: skinless poultry, rabbit, flank or shoulder of veal, shoulder and silverside of beef. Avoid sausage meat, goose, fatty pieces of pork, duck (except de-fatted breast), lamb, offal, or ham. Remove the fat from the meat before cooking if the butcher has not already done it.
Make your sandwiches healthier by replacing butter with olive oil, fresh cheese or beaten curd cheese with herbs, pepper and salt. Choose whole grain breads and vary flours. Add fillings such as poultry, crab, salmon, egg, cold meat or cheese. Do not skimp on adding salad (e.g., lettuce, tomato, bell pepper) and if you need a sauce, use pesto or tapenade instead of mayonnaise. Try crunchy foods (e.g., nuts, sesame seeds) and fruit (e.g., apples, dried fruit).
There is an alternative reduced version to most classical rich recipes. For mayonnaise, whisk egg and mustard and gradually stir in cottage cheese with 0% fat content: taste and health guaranteed. More generally, cornflour (or mashed vegetables) and vegetable broth advantageously replace flour and wine/brandy in making sauces. Rediscover using cooking juices, they don’t usually need tricks to make them taste better!