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Healthy eating with the Swiss food pyramid

As well as getting enough exercise and plenty of relaxation, nutrition is important to our health. The Swiss food pyramid is a guide to eating healthily. It provides a pictorial representation of a balanced diet for adults.

The principle is simple: we need larger amounts of the foods in the lower levels of the pyramid and smaller amounts of those in the higher levels. The composition of the individual foods is colourful and varied.
Don't worry, you don’t have to eat exactly according to the pyramid every day. You can of course enjoy two slices of cake one day, and avoid sweet treats entirely another day to compensate. Choosing the right foods by and large is perfectly fine to ensure you get all the nutrients you need. Incidentally, there are no banned foods in the nutrition pyramid. Even sweet treats or crisps have their place in a healthy diet – as long as you enjoy them consciously and in small quantities.
Swiss food pyramid for a healthy diet

The basis of the food pyramid: drinks

Glass carafe filled with water and lemon slices next to several glasses
Drinks supply us with water and minerals. Not drinking enough is bad for our health; among other things, it slows blood flow and impedes concentration and productivity.
To get enough fluids, you should drink 1-2 litres over the course of the day. When we are exercising or have a fever, and in hot conditions, we need a little more water to replace the moisture lost via the skin. Unsweetened drinks such as water or fruit and herbal teas are the ideal thirst quenchers. Coffee, as well as black and green tea, also provide us with fluids.
So don't forget to drink:
  • always take a drinking bottle with you.
  • In the morning, make a large jug of tea and drink it by the evening.
  • Drink a glass of water with every cup of coffee and every meal.
  • Always have your drink within reach and sight (e.g. on your bedside table or desk).
  • Refill your glass as soon as it's empty.
  • Use larger drinking glasses (e.g. 400 ml instead of 200 ml).
  • Use apps to remind you to drink.

Get your vitamins: vegetables & fruit

Large bowl of leafy salad with vegetables and salad servers alongside
Vegetables and fruit provide you with vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and phytochemicals – without delivering many calories. Studies show that consuming a lot of vegetables and fruit can reduce the risk of certain cancers. Consequently, this group appears in level two of the Swiss food pyramid. Include 5 portions a day – 3 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit.
Fresh, seasonal varieties from your local region are particularly flavoursome. What's more, they protect the climate. Frozen is a good alternative, however. Frozen fruit and vegetables are quick-frozen immediately after they are picked, preserving the vitamins that are lost in storage.

Feel full: cereal products, potatoes & pulses

Bowls of different coloured lentils, an important constituent of the food pyramid
Side dishes that are high in starch include bread, oats, pasta, rice, potatoes and polenta. They are featured on level three of the Swiss food pyramid. These foods are rich in carbohydrates and a source of dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins. The recommendation is 3 portions of these a day.
It's worth choosing wholegrain versions of cereal products. Why? Wholemeal flour contains far more dietary fibre, minerals (e.g. magnesium, iron, zinc) and vitamins (e.g. vitamin B1 & B6, folic acid) than white flour.
Pulses such as soya, lentils and beans are also sources of plant protein.

Pack in the protein: dairy, eggs, fish, meat and tofu

Various foods containing protein, such as eggs, milk and quark
This group provides you with valuable protein. Furthermore, the foods on level four of the pyramid are packed with vitamin D and vitamin B12 (meat, fish, milk, eggs), calcium (milk) and essential Omega-3 fatty acids (fish). 3 portions of milk and dairy products per day are recommended.
An additional portion of protein should be added to the plate in the form of tofu, egg, fish or meat. Eat meat, sausage and cold cuts in moderation – no more than 3 portions a week. 1 to 2 portions of an oily marine fish per week will provide all the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA that you need. Some examples of oily marine fish are salmon and herring.
If you don't eat animal products, check out our guide on vegan nutrition for helpful tips on ensuring you get all the nutrients you need.

Essential oils: oils, fats and nuts

Oils and oily products such as olives, which are part of the Swiss food pyramid
Vegetable oils are found in level five of the Swiss nutrition pyramid and provide you with vital fatty acids and certain fat-soluble vitamins. 2 to 3 tablespoons a day are sufficient. Rapeseed oil is the best choice, because it is particularly high in Omega-3 fatty acids. A small handful of nuts and seeds each day provides polyunsaturated fatty acids, protein, dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins.

As a treat: sweet, savoury and alcohol

Chocolate, crisps, lemonade, honey and alcohol, which should only be consumed in small amounts
Chocolate, sweet beverages, savoury snacks and the like are not banned in the Swiss nutrition pyramid. However, they are high in calories, sugar, fat and salt. Therefore, these foods sit at the top of the pyramid. Enjoy them as a treat, because you shouldn't have one more than one portion a day. In our guides, you’ll find useful articles on the subject of sugar, such as how to recognize sugar and what sugar alternatives are available.
Alcohol is high in calories and provides no valuable nutrients whatsoever. Furthermore, alcohol has negative effects on health. High consumption increases the risk of various types of cancer, fatty liver, cirrhosis of the liver as well as diseases of the pancreas. Children should not drink any alcohol, even in small amounts. For adults, the following upper limits of pure alcohol per day are recommended: for women 10 grams, for men 20 grams. 10 grams equates to one glass of beer, one glass of wine or 2 centilitres of a spirit.

How big is one portion in the food pyramid?

The table shows the portion sizes for the different food groups. These apply to adults. For other age groups (e.g. children, the elderly) or people at particular stages of life (e.g. pregnancy), some of the recommendations differ.
Pyramid level
Recommended portions per day
Drink 1-2 litres of unsweetened drinks (e.g. water or tea) over the course of the day.
Fruit & vegetables
5 x 120 gram portions 3 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit, a maximum of 1 of which a day can be juice
The following equate to one portion: 1 handful of vegetables or fruit, 2 handfuls of berries, 2 handfuls of salad, 1 small handful of unsweetened dried fruit, 200 ml of unsweetened fruit or vegetable juice.
Cereal products, potatoes & pulses
3 portions (choose wholegrain cereals)
The following equate to one portion: 75-125 grams of bread, 180-300 grams of potatoes, 45-75 grams of crispbread, 45-75 grams of oats or cornflakes, 45-75 grams of pasta or (brown) rice (dry weight), 60-100 grams of pulses (dry weight).
Dairy products, meat, fish, eggs & tofu
3 portions of milk and dairy products, plus 1 portion of meat, poultry, fish, tofu, cheese or quark (sausages max. 1 x per week)
The following equate to one portion: 200 ml of milk, 150-200 grams of yoghurt or quark, 30 grams of semi-hard/hard cheese, 60 grams of soft cheese, 150-200 grams of quark/cottage cheese, 2-3 eggs, 100-120 grams of meat, poultry, fish or tofu, 30-50 grams of ham, cured ham, air-dried meat (approx. 4-5 slices).
Oils, fats & nuts
2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, at least half of which in the form of rapeseed oil, 1 portion of unsalted nuts or seeds s and when required: butter, margarine or cream
The following equate to one portion: 2-3 tablespoons (20-30 grams) of vegetable oil, 1 handful of unsalted nuts or seeds, 2-3 tablespoons of nut butter, 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine, 2 tablespoons of full cream or 3 tablespoons of single cream.
Sweet, savoury & alcoholic
maximum 1 portion
The following equate to one portion: 1 handful (30 grams) of savoury snacks, 1 row of chocolate, 1 small slice of cake, 3 biscuits, 200-300 ml of a sweet beverage, 1 scoop of ice cream, 1 glass of beer, 1 glass of wine.
Portion sizes for different food groups according to the food pyramid

The balanced plate

The plate model shows the composition of the ideal main meal:
  • 2/5 vegetables, salad or fruit
  • 2/5 starchy accompaniment
  • 1/5 food containing protein
A balanced meal keeps you full for a long time and helps prevent hunger pangs. Drink an unsweetened drink with every meal.
The model can be applied to composite dishes such as a vegetable lasagne, which also contains vegetables, pasta and protein in the form of cheese. It's a good idea to think about the right quantities of ingredients when preparing the dish. Dishes without vegetables can be made into a balanced meal with a colourful salad or a vegetable soup. Cold dishes too, such as wholemeal bread with cheese and vegetable sticks, can also offer a healthy mix.