What You Can Learn from Belgium's New Food Pyramid

October  4, 2017

Belgian food, in the American imagination, leans heavily on carbs. We think of french fries, waffles, and beer. But a new food pyramid design, unveiled in September by the Belgium-based Flemish Institute for Healthy Living, posits a nutritionally balanced approach to cleaner eating.

The words may not mean anything to you, but use the images to follow the Belgian diet. Photo by Flemish Institute for Healthy Living

The inverted triangle consists of four main food groups, divided by colors that range from dark green to red. At the top, in the dark green section, sit ever healthy, always friendly fruits and vegetables, joined by whole grains and breads, legumes, nuts, and vegetable oils. Next, in the light green second-tier, are fish, dairy, eggs, cheese, and poultry. These are followed by red meats and butter, both of which come with a recommendation for lower consumption. And last, in red, under a heading that reads “as little as possible,” the diagram places processed meats, alcoholic beverages, sugar-rich drinks, sweets and desserts, and salty foods like chips, pizza, and fries.

Categorizing something like processed meats as dangerous seems significant, and something the U.S. MyPlate diagram does not do. In 2011, our American food pyramid gave way to a more familiar shape: the dining dish. The diagram uses a place setting and a plate to illustrate the five main food groups and how they should proportionally appear on your table. Meanwhile, the Flemish Institute’s approach hearkens back to the food triangle design of my youth. The Belgian dietary suggestions lean plant-based, and place attention on meat alternatives and dairy substitutes. While this in many ways echoes what we already know, the site emphasizes that Belgians eat too few vegetables, and encourages them to increase their portions of them.

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The website itself is interactive and multifaceted; it features recipes, explainers, and statistics for the curious cook and eater. Even though it’s in a different language, I recommend running it through Google Translate and giving it a go, because there’s a big wealth of information for you to tap/click into.

What are your thoughts on the new diet design? Would you follow the Flemish? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Gert-Jan Van Cakenbergh
    Gert-Jan Van Cakenbergh
  • Moire
  • eleni
  • petalpusher
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


Gert-Jan V. October 10, 2017
You can find a translation of the texts on the website here:
Moire October 8, 2017
I look at this and bread equated with broccolI. Nuts are little fat missiles, and included with vegetables and grains. Live with sausage, beer, and pastry? That's not the Belgium that I know.
eleni October 9, 2017
i don't think the bread is equated with broccoli... first the bread icon is smaller than the fruit/veg and second, the "meer..... minder" scale on the left mean "more..... less" as you go down the pyramid.
related to nuts, they are indeed fat missiles, but good fats plus lots of healthy minerals. plus i find there is almost a non-existent danger of pigging-out on raw/toasted nuts vs. on fatty processed snacks such as chips/crisps !
petalpusher October 9, 2017
Walnuts and raw almonds are marvelous little (good) fat missiles, keeping my blood lipid numbers in the excellent range. This chart makes excellent sense to those who are vested in nutrition rather than meds to feel good, stay active and avoid the pitfalls of bad food choices.
Because eventually the bill comes due for years of willful ignorance.