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What You Can Learn from Belgium's New Food Pyramid

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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.
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.

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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.

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.

Tags: belgium, nutrition, food pyramid, balanced eating, wellness