The Food Pyramid

The Food Pyramid

In 2005 the USDA redesigned the Food Pyramid to incorporate individual lifestyle into the daily selection of food choices for healthy living. The food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans) remain unchanged; however, the parameters of selecting those foods have been modified. For example, it is now recommended that Americans with inactive lifestyles consume less than individuals with active lifestyles. In addition, the significance of oils is now addressed in the Food Pyramid. There are six topics (activity, moderation, personalization, proportionality, variety, and gradual improvement) the new pyramid incorporates to illustrate how diet and activity work together in establishing a new healthy lifestyle.

The Food Groups and Oils


Grains are foods that are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or any other cereal grain products. Examples of grains include: breads, pastas, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas and grits.

The grains are divided into two categories, whole grains and refined grains:

· whole-wheat flour

· bulgar (cracked wheat)

· oatmeal

· whole cornmeal

· brown rice

The refined grains have been processed to remove the bran and germ. This adds to the shelf life of the grain and gives it a finer texture. Unfortunately, through this milling process the dietary fiber, iron and B vitamins are also removed. Refined grains include:

· white flour

· de-germed cornmeal

· white bread

· white rice


The vegetable food group consists of any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice. Foods may be consumed raw or cooked, fresh or frozen, dried, whole or mashed. Vegetables are divided into 5 categories that include: dark green vegetables, starchy vegetables, orange vegetables, beans and peas; along with other vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, green beans, onions, squashes, cauliflower and celery.


The fruit group consists of any fruit or 100% fruit juice. Foods may be consumed fresh, canned, frozen, dried, whole, or pureed. Examples of this food group include: apples, oranges, bananas, avocados, berries, melons, peaches and pears.


The milk group consists of all fluid milk products and many foods that are made from milk.  Examples of this food group are: milk, yogurt, cheese, pudding and ice cream. Food choices should be low in fat or fat-free. Only milk products that maintain high calcium content are considered part of this group. Foods that have little calcium remaining are not part of this group such as, cream cheese, cream or butter.

Meat and Beans

The meat and bean group consists of all foods made from meat, poultry, fish, dry beans or peas, eggs, nut and seeds. Dry beans and peas are part of this group and the vegetable group. Meat and poultry choices should be low in fat and lean. Fish, nuts and seeds contain healthy oils, so these foods should be selected over meat or poultry. Examples of this food group are: beef, pork, lamb, veal, chicken, turkey, fish or shellfish, eggs, beans or peas and nuts/seeds.


The “oils” group consists of oils that are liquid at room temperature, such as vegetable oils or seed oils. Examples of this group include: canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, avocado oil, grape seed oil, sunflower oil or fish oils. Some foods are in this group and include: mayonnaise, certain salad dressings and margarines with no trans fats.

Most oils are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats. Oils from plant sources do not contain cholesterol. However, coconut oil and palm oil are high in saturated fats and therefore should be considered solid fats. Solid fats are solid at room temperature, like butter and shortening. These fats come from animal foods or vegetable oils that have been hydrogenated (a process that adds hydrogen). Solid fats include: butter, beef fat, chicken fat, pork fat, stick margarine and shortening.

The New USDA Food Pyramid Symbol

The New Pyramid was developed to give Americans a new personalized approach to healthy eating and physical activity. The new symbol is designed to remind consumers of the importance of making healthy food choices and encourage an everyday active lifestyle. There are six topics represented in the New Pyramid, which include: activity, moderation, personalization, proportionality, variety, and gradual improvement.


The “person” climbing the steps represents activity, as a reminder of the importance of daily physical activity.


In the pyramid, the food groups narrow from the bottom to the top, which represents moderation.  Foods that are nutrient dense with little or no solid fats or added sugars should be selected more often. The narrowing of the food pyramid represents foods that have added sugars and solid fats. The more active a person is, the more these foods may be consumed.


The steps, the new slogan and the URL represent personalization. Every individual can search the website to find the right foods for his/her general lifestyle.


The different widths of each food group band represent the proportions of foods that should be selected. 


The different colors of each food group band represent variety. They represent the 5 food groups of the Pyramid and the oils. Daily selections from each food group are important for good health.

Gradual Improvement

The new symbol is designed to encourage gradual improvement, suggesting that you can take small necessary steps to improve your diet and lifestyle each day.

Dietary Guidelines

The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans offer science-based advice on food and physical activity as they relate to health. Healthy diets as described by the new Dietary Guidelines are:

· An emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products;

· Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and

· Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

It is important to note that these guidelines are for the general public over 2 years of age. These recommendations are not for therapeutic diets or specific health conditions.  Individuals should consult a health care provider for specific health conditions.

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