rndale saidI have been using the classic food pyramid, although my eat whatever I feel like diet is a terrible.
Heavy: Dairy, Grains
Mild: Meat, Fruits
Light: Salt & Fats, Vegetables
According to the food pyramid a supreme pizza from Domino's is healthy (and we were actually taught that pizza was healthy in elementry school to boot - it had all four food groups, wow!).
The goal of the USDA folks who make the food pyramid (and whatever travesty has currently usurped it's position; it's not the food pyramid anymore) is to try and simplify nutrition so that the 'everyman' can understand it.
It's a dumbed down nutritional vehicle aimed at the slow kids in class. Whether that's a good nutritional policy or not is debatable, but it's definitely not what you're looking for.
um... I have to get back to writing a presentation or I'd answer.
The wholly true version is that nutrition is actually poorly understood (e.g. only recently they discovered that creatine (found naturally in red meat mostly) is important to cognitive function, which undermines a lot of vegetarian diets claims of superiority, as is.)
The basics revolve around a set of minimum requirments concerning kinds of proteins and fats and vitamins/minerals. After that it's mostly about energy metabolism and rate of conversion to glucose. That last part is where most people are failing utterly. The actual explanation invovles simple calculus (since you need to essentially integrate over the conversion time for your food to find out what energy avialability is). Then throw in fasting/feating metabolism states (which we switch between throughout the day), and weight your current state based on nutritional goals (mass building or losing primarily).
And finally add in a touch of psychological fullness and energy level (e.g. some foods essentially facilitate a higher activity level, making calorie calculations more complicated).
Honestly, it's relatively straightforward to the extent that we understand it. Just takes a little bit to layout.
The reason things appear are so complicated when you read across various articles is : (a
) attempt to dumb down general principles into specific diets (e.g. you can eat every two hours or every 6 hours, and can have only protein [though that involves a bit more metabolic machinery to explain] or have lots of simple processed foods and both can actually be good diets. To simplify, people will tell you that 'X' is the best diet, which is really one subset of a large number of healthy options. (b
) Most 'health professionals' are academic misfits or completely scientifically untrained. Seriously, there's a huge volume of information to be taken into account, and most people don't really know what they're talking about. It doesn't help that the 'scientific literature' that supports most sports nutrition and the like is sort of a scientific backwater and appears to often be mixed up with commercial funding in, at best, unseemly ways. It's actually something that I and some lab mates joke about occasionally: bodybuilders and the health conscious are this group that, collectively and individually, makes a huge effort to be educated about the science behind what they're doing, but are tragically incapable of discerning good from bad science or properly integrating individual studies using more general biological models. It's this almost idyllic situation that ends in a mess.
But I digress.
Look into your must haves: essential and semi-essential proteins (in practice look for "complete" proteins, or rather complete groups of proteins). Look into digestian rate for proteins (e.g. whey vs. casein). Get all your vitamins and minerals. Get your complements of fat (which, should be at least 1/4 of your calories probably). And look at glycemic index (which is the closest thing to measuring conversion/burn rate of your calories).
Combine to best fit your body's needs.
Then there are a few outliers factors (e.g. maximum rate of protein processing, time of day when you're more likely to repair and replenish muscle, etc.) But you get the idea.