The food pyramid is a schematic model illustrating recommendations and guidelines for a healthy and balanced diet. All foods are classified under 6 major groups, each of which offers specific nutrients. The base of the pyramid is made up of foods that should be consumed more often. At the tip of the pyramid are those foods that should be consumed sparingly or in moderation, whilst all other foods are placed in levels in between. In addition, the food pyramid also sets out the serving size per food group and how often an average healthy person has to consume food from that group in order to control their weight.

Group A: CEREALS (Bread, rice, potatoes & pasta)
Group A is located at the base of the pyramid and constitutes the staple of a balanced diet.Rich in starch and carbohydrates, these foods constitute the body’s main supply source for instant energy. They also contain fibre that is necessary for the digestive tract to work well and Vitamin B Complex. It is recommended to consume 4 – 8 servings a day (indicative serving size:  e.g. 1 slice of bread, ½ cup cooked pasta, 1 small potato, 2 slices of toast).

Group B: Vegetables
Vegetables are located on the second level of the Pyramid. They include all vegetables, both fresh and frozen. The recommended intake is 2 – 4 servings a day (indicative serving size: 1 cup of raw vegetables or ½ cup of cooked vegetables). The consumption of vegetables of a variety of different colours that are low in calories enables the intake of large amounts of many different vitamins, minerals, as well as fibre that help in the body’s defence and good functioning.

Group C: Fruit
This category includes all types of fruit and is also on the second level of the pyramid together with Vegetables. Fruit contains natural sugar, fibre, various vitamins and minerals. The consumption of fruits of various colours enables the intake of antioxidants that are necessary for the body’s health and defence.  The recommended daily intake of fruit is 2 – 4 servings (serving size: e.g.  1 medium sized fruit or ½ cup 100% fruit juice).

Group D: Dairy products
Dairy products are the main source of Calcium intake and a very good source of vitamins, as well as proteins of high biological value.  A quantity of 2 – 3 servings each day (indicative serving size: 1 glass of milk or 1 cup of yoghurt or a piece of cheese the size of a matchbox or a cheese slice) is sufficient to meet the body’s daily needs for these nutrients. Dairy products and especially yoghurt are rich in calcium and their intake is very important, particularly for women during pregnancy, breast feeding or menopause.

Group E: Meat, poultry, fish, legumes and eggs
Includes foods rich in protein, iron and important vitamins, necessary for muscles to develop and the body to work properly. 2- 3 servings (indicative serving size: the size of a cassette tape for meat or fish, 1 chicken leg (60 g), 1 cup of cooked meat or fish, 1 egg) are enough to give our body the energy it needs for its daily functions. It is preferable to choose fish and legumes for most meals in the week and to limit the intake of red meat. It would be good to limit our egg intake to 4 a week, at the most.

Group F: Fats & oils, nuts
This group contains all vegetable and animal fats (olive oil, seed oil, butter, margarine, as well as nuts. Although they should be consumed in small quantities because they are high in calories, 2 – 6 servings daily (indicative serving size: 1 teaspoon oil, 8 – 10 olives, 10 almonds) are necessary for the body to work well, as these foods are the sole catalysts for fat soluble vitamins and contain essential omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids that the body cannot make. The daily use of olive oil instead of other oils is recommended..

Additionally, at the tip of the food pyramid sweet and savoury snacks are often classified under a separate Seventh Group, including food which is rich in calories, sugar and fat and low in nutrients (e.g. crisps, desserts, chocolates, etc.) This food must be consumed on occasion and sparingly because it can result in weight gain and other health problems. When consumed it should be in small amounts. Indicatively, a serving size can be 1 small chocolate, 1 small dessert or 15 crisps.