Food pyramid

Food pyramid

  • 1 Do you know the food pyramid? It is a reference of healthy eating or at least it was
    • 1.1 Everyone knows the food pyramid
  • 2 Why it shouldn’t be our reference
    • 2.1 Block 1: Cereals, nuts, tubers, legumes and vegetables, vegetables and fruits.
    • 2.2 Block 2: Dairy and legumes, eggs, fish and chicken.
    • 2.3 Block 3: Sausages and red meat. Alcohol
    • 2.4 Cusp
  • 3 What is a good reference point?

Do you know the food pyramid? It is a reference of healthy eating or at least it was

Everyone knows the food pyramid

The food pyramid has been our benchmark for healthy eating for many years. In fact, each country has its own, but the question is whether this should really be the case. To find out the answer, we are going to analyze ours, the food pyramid of the Spanish Society of Community Nutrition (SENC) :

Food pyramid

Before we start to analyze, let’s explain how it is interpreted. The base is supposed to be what we should prioritize in our diet and what appears at the top is what we should not eat so often, or what, in other words, we should eat occasionally / sporadically. Then we see observations and nuances, such as alcohol, water, exercise or nutritional supplements. As we can see in the lower part of the image, this pyramid is from 2015, and it is an updated version.

Why shouldn’t it be our reference

What I am going to tell you next is nothing more than a personal opinion from my professional point of view, but I think it is something that at least should make us reflect and think that what they tell us is not always the absolute truth and we should not pay attention. I am going to analyze the pyramid by the blocks that compose it and again, I will start at the base.

Block 1: Cereals, nuts, tubers, legumes and vegetables, vegetables and fruits.

At the base we see an orange-framed area made up, firstly, by the group of cereals (since the last update they already mark us that they are whole), nuts, tubers and legumes and, secondly, by another group in which vegetables, vegetables, fruits and extra virgin olive oil appear (we can read it if we enlarge the image well). Apart from this group we can read: “consumption groups in each main meal”. The first strip (that of cereals, nuts, tubers and legumes) tells us “according to degree of physical activity” and we can also read “3-4 a day” in reference to fruits and “2-3 al vegetables, + fruits, +5 servings a day ”.

In my opinion, it seems like a detail to me that they have removed the package of breakfast cereals (we could see it in the latest version) and that it specifies that the cereals be whole, but I think the order is reversed. Fruits, vegetables and vegetables should appear first and the other group should appear second, since our diet must prioritize the green of vegetables, fruits and vegetables.

Regarding the observations of the margin, I do not think that it is necessary to consume cereals in each main meal, as for legumes I think they are in the wrong group since it gives us to understand that we must count legumes as a hydrate and not as a protein source, which is what we should really do and as for nuts, I don’t think it necessary that they be consumed in the main meals, it is more, it seems to me a much better strategy to take them between meals. Flours seem totally dispensable in a healthy diet, even if they are whole grain or whole grain.

Block 2: Dairy and legumes, eggs, fish and chicken.

The second block is made up of milk, cheese and yogurt on the one hand and nuts, legumes, eggs, fish and chicken on the other. Apart from dairy we see “2-3 a day” and in the other we see “varied daily consumption, 1-3 a day (alternate)”.

In my opinion, I think that since this block represents the protein groups, it should be here that legumes appear most notably. They also forget about vegan dairy (soy drinks, oats, nuts …) and seeds, which do not appear in the entire pyramid. Regarding the observations, I would qualify that “2-3 a day of dairy products” since we can follow a completely healthy diet without the need to take dairy (remember that dairy is not the only source of calcium in the diet). Therefore, I would put 0-3 a day. I would also draw 2 types of fish (blue and white). And the annotation that I would make in the margin instead of “toggle” would be “prioritize vegetable options.”

Block 3: Sausages and red meat. Alcohol

The third block is that of sausages and red meat. In the margin we see drawn a glass of beer and another of wine with the text: “fermented drinks. Optional, moderate and responsible consumption in adults ”. We would also see a text that says “occasional or moderate optional consumption” that also refers to the peak.

On this occasion, I will be very brief. I would not directly put any of these foods since the recommendation is to limit them as much as possible, especially after its relationship with colorectal cancer as stated by the WHO a few years ago. As for alcohol, it goes without saying how harmful it is, but of course, we are interested in making us believe that beer and wine are healthy in moderation, and no, alcohol is not healthy, not even a glass of wine a day.


We see pastries, butter, snacks, cakes, sugar, sweets … with the notation of “optional occasional or moderate consumption.” We have a little banner culminating in the pyramid that says “nutritional supplements, vitamin D, folates …”.

If block 3 eliminated it, you can imagine it would do it with this cusp, that’s right, eliminate it too. And honestly, I do not understand why that annotation of supplements … ah yes! pharmaceutical industry…

In summary, it seems to me that more than one participates here with their economic contributions to make alcohol healthy, to make us believe that we can eat ultra-processed and that sausages are a good option.

What is a good reference point?

We have two options. If we like the pyramid format, we can look at the Flemish food pyramid :

flamenco food pyramid

Or in the Harvard healthy eating plate , with which we can develop a healthy diet in a very simple way:

As you can see in none of them there is an appearance of everything that we can see at the top of the food pyramid, neither pastries, nor snacks, nor alcohol … (in the flamenco pyramid we see it outside of it, as if it should not be in our diet, also with the review of “the less the better.” As you can see, legumes are part of the protein group and not that of whole grains (carbohydrates). There is no mention of portions, quantities or frequencies of consumption. It simply gives us a practical and comfortable guide to how our plate should be in main meals. And outside of them, we can eat anything that is in our daily dishes. Without a doubt, it is the easiest to know how to eat.

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