Updated 18 March 2013

Food pyramid

The food pyramid is a useful tool that can be used as a guideline in terms of healthy, balanced eating. Here's how it works.

The food pyramid is a useful tool that can be used as a guideline in terms of healthy, balanced eating.

Here's how it works.

Food pyramid

How often to eat it

What and how many portions/servings

Examples of food


(once in a while for special occasions - i.e. once or twice a month)

Refined confectionary

Now and again - e.g. a bite-size chocolate, small triangle of cake, 1 cookie/biscuit

Chocolates, sweets, cakes, biscuits, pastries, pies

Sweeteners to enhance taste

Mono- and poly-unsaturated fats: 1-3 teaspoons daily

Honey, sugar, dates

Butter, soft margarine, extra virgin olive oil, linseed oil, sesame oil, canola oil


Red meat:60g/size and thickness of the palm of your hand

2-3 servings a week

Mutton, beef, pork, venison with all visible fat removed

Vegetarians can replace meat, fish, poultry, eggs with similar portions of nuts and legumes

Poultry: 60g/size and thickness of palm of hand, skin & bone removed

1-2 servings per week

Chicken breast, fillet, drumstick, thigh

Duck, turkey

Eggs: 1 egg = 1 serving

2-5 servings per week

Egg boiled.

Omelette, scrambled or fried in non-stick vegetable oil spray (preferably olive oil spray)

Fish: 60g/size and thickness of palm of your hand

1-3 servings per week White fish

(king klip, sole, hake) once a week; cold water fatty fish (salmon, trout, sardines, tuna, mackerel).

Grilled, steamed, canned in low salt brine


Seeds: 1 tablespoon = 1 servingSprouts: 1 tablespoon = 1 serving

1 serving every day

Any of a variety: linseed, poppy seed, sunflower seed, sesame - mix, grind and eat with breakfast cereal for full complement of essential fatty acids


Nuts: ¼ cup/1 tablespoon of nut butter = 1 serving

1 serving every day

Any of a variety: almond, pecan, brazil, cashew, walnut

Legumes: ½ cup cooked beans = 1 serving

1 serving every day

Dried beans: red sugar, kidney, soy. Lentils. Peas. Tofu, tempeh. Soy milk

Can be mixed, soaked and cooked together with onions, garlic, ginger & fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme)

Dairy: 1 cup milk, yoghurt or ½ cup low fat cottage cheese or 30g low fat cheese

1-2 servings per day

Low or fat free milk, cheese, yoghurt, cottage cheese

Soy milk

Starches and cereals: 1 slice whole wheat bread/½ whole wheat roll/1 small bran muffin/1 medium potato/1 small sweet potato = 1 serving

1/2 cup cooked rice/porridge/pasta/samp/couscous = 1 serving

3-6 servings per day

Whole grains: brown rice, couscous, samp, porridge, millet, barley, wheat, pasta

Unrefined flour/meal: wheat, mealie, oats, rye, soy

Fruit: a variety of fresh fruit/fruit juices
1 medium apple, 1 cup raw sliced fruit, 2 dried pear halves, 2 naartjies (guavas, plums), ¾ cup fresh fruit juice, ¼ avocado, 1 small banana, 5 olives = 1 serving

2-5 servings every day

Variety of fruit every day to obtain various plant nutrients and benefits

Vegetables: a variety

5-7 servings every day

½ cup cooked veggies: broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower, cabbage, beetroot, green beans, sweet corn = 1 serving ¾ cup chopped/grated carrots, cucumber = 1 serving

Water: 6-8 glasses every day


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