Last Updated on 28 January 2022 by Ray Plumlee

Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid
Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid

You want to eat healthily, you really do. But how do you manage to do that when there is so much

conflicting information out there about what exactly, is a healthy diet?
Are you confused? Do you know what is considered a healthy_diet 'today'?x
Some will tell you to avoid whole milk and other dairy products, while others will say that they are a necessary part of a healthy diet. So, where, exactly does the truth lie? As in most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Moderation in all things seems to be the key to a healthy diet. And, while moderation may not be sexy, it may not be fun – it does seem to get the job done. 

The Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid is a visual representation, shaped like a pyramid, of course, which demonstrates just what a healthy diet should consist of. At the base, the most fundamental part of the structure is the need for exercise on a daily basis and control of our weight. The rest of the structure shows us, in decreasing intake requirements, just what we need to help ensure our continued good health. Building upward, we need to consume some whole-grain foods with each meal, At this level, plant oils, such as coconut oil, olive oil, corn oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and other vegetable oils make their appearance.

Next comes lots and lots of vegetables, and the suggestion that we consume fruits two to three times a day as well. Next, in a slightly decreasing amount is nuts and legumes, to be eaten one to three times a day. As we get closer to the top of the pyramid, the daily intake of each item decreases. Fish, poultry, and eggs are the next step upward, with recommendations of zero to 2 times a day. Dairy or calcium supplements are needed, but only once or twice a day.

Finally, at the very peak of the pyramid, we come to the most limited constituents of a healthy diet, red meat, butter, and carbs such as white bread, white rice, white pasta, potatoes, and, of course, soda and sweets.
Do you agree with this? This is not Paleo, Keto or Low Carb friendly.x
But the key to the whole thing is knowing that each and every one of these items can be included in a healthy diet, simply in somewhat limited portions.  After all, a healthy diet is supposed to make us feel good, boost our energy, improve our health, and enhance our mood. Our mood is not likely to be enhanced if we spend our lives denying ourselves things we enjoy and counting calories to the exclusion of everything else.

So, the ideal situation is to create a healthy balance, in our diet and our life. We can’t succeed by denying ourselves completely the things that make us happy. That doesn’t lead to success, but failure. Sooner or later we’re going to eat that slab of chocolate cake. If we see that as a monumental failure, we are more likely to become discouraged, and slide right down the steep side of that food pyramid. If we see it as a minor misstep, we are more likely to pick ourselves up and continue the climb.

There are lots of small things we can do every day, things which we can incorporate into our lives, to keep us on track, so that a chocolate cake episode becomes nothing more than a simple slip, not so important in the grand scheme of things. Start with breakfast. Make Captain Crunch walk the plank and switch to a more healthy, adult cereal. One containing whole grains and a bit of fiber. If you must have milk in your coffee, use skim milk. And wean yourself away from those multiple spoonfuls of sugar. Oatmeal is healthy, but try it with skim milk or one percent milk.

At lunch, substitute mustard for mayonnaise on that sandwich. And use whole grain bread products! But you may want to forego that sandwich entirely, as most processed deli meats are not exactly health food. Maybe a salad, or soup? Prepare more meals at home, where you can control the content. Forego that trip to the burger place. Once and a while is fine, but daily visits are a definite no-no. And if you do dine out, try some grilled fish or chicken in place of that thick steak. Your diet won’t suffer (and neither will some random cow). And order a side of fruit instead of those fries.

If you feel like Italian tonight, eat it with a tomato-based sauce, not some creamy white variety. And, for your salad, try spinach in place of iceberg lettuce, which has negligible calories but scant nutrients as well. If you’re already eating yogurt, good for you. Try adding some ground flaxseed to it to supply some healthy omega-3 fats. If you’re one of those people who constantly crave a refreshing cold drink, try unsweetened tea instead of the sweetened variety or that can of soda you were about to reach for.

One important thing to remember is that eating healthy means eating foods as close to the way nature made them as possible. And to truly eat healthily you must maintain an overall healthy dietary plan. Don’t skimp on things that are vital and then reward yourself with things that are detrimental. And be wary of the latest fad diets. If it sounds too good to be true, odds are it is. Stapling your ear does no good, and I’m willing to bet that the only people who stay healthy on a diet of baby food, are, in fact, babies. One long-ago diet plan involved wearing blue-tinted eyeglasses to make the food on your plate look unappealing. I’m willing to bet that after a bit of time, even blue food becomes appealing to a starving man!

Finally, you need to ensure that you are getting plenty of water on a daily basis in order to maintain a healthy diet. You should not drink more than eight glasses of water per day to help you lose weight, as well as to help you stay healthy throughout the day. If you do not have the proper amount of water in your body, you will find it difficult to stay hydrated and will have many problems while exercising.

So, in conclusion, it would seem that common sense is the key. Nothing good comes without some effort or sacrifice, but you can maintain an overall healthy diet without suffering too much. Eat when you’re hungry, but not to the point of stuffing yourself. But, if you feel you must remember it’s far better to stuff yourself with a large salad than with a huge bowl of pasta. You’ll be full in either case, but not with guilt.

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I’m Nick Wilkinson. I writer and radio personality who lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

With over 14 years of experience in the Behavioral Health Field, I’ve been working in close contact with kids from all walks of life.

Specializing in teenagers and young adults, I’ve been a career long supporter of “verbal de-escalation” and non-violent crisis intervention. I believe that what you say, and how you say it, are the keys to successful communication. I currently write about men's health topics, parenting and child abuse topics, and other social issues. You can visit my blog at

Tagged on: butter    calcium supplements    canola oil    carbs    coconut oil    corn oil    dairy    eggs    Exercise    fad diets    fiber    health food    healthy eating    nutrients    olive oil    peanut oil    plant oils    red meat    The Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid    vegetables    whole-grain foods
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