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Food Guide Pyramid

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The original food guide pyramid was published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1992 as a visual tool and guideline to help consumers more easily figure out how much of which types of food to eat daily, for optimum nutritional health. By emphasizing healthy choices, following the pyramid recommendations helps to control the amount of calories, fats, cholesterol, sugar and sodium in your personal food plans. As different foods are made up of different nutritional values, no one food group can provide all the beneficial substances you require on a daily basis. According to the pyramid food guide the firm base of a healthy diet should consist of eating lots of grains, fruit and vegetables with a strong emphasis on variety.


The Food Guide Pyramid was developed by the highly renowned Tufts University in Boston Massachusetts in the early nineties and an updated version was re-released in 2005. The new improved version is called MyPyramid and can be fully explored at The fundamental differences between the old and the new charts are that MyPyramid has included exercise, the benefits of moderation, and the use of supplements in the graph, as well as changed measurement directions from “servings” to cups and ounces for better clarification. The term “serving” has been confusing at times because it encompasses so many variables.


The USDA "MyPyramid" Food Guide Pyramid

The food pyramid itself is a triangle shaped graphic with different sized colored stripes representing the different food groups. The improved version, MyPyramid has the addition of a person climbing steps up one side of the outer triangle to represent the physical activity component. Here are the guide’s recommendations for each category of food:

  • Grains, pasta, cereals: 6 - 11 servings daily

  • Vegetables: 3 - 5 servings daily

  • Fruit: 2 - 4 servings daily

  • Dairy: 2 - 3 servings daily

  • Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Nuts, Beans: 2 - 3 servings daily

  • Fats, Oils, Sweets: To be taken sparingly, and not on a daily basis


Dietary Supplements are to be used as dietary extras for an additional nutritional boost and not at any time be used to replace food. The average general amount of calories required daily for children under age 6 or a senior adult is about 1600 per day. For older children and most adults it’s around 2200 and for teenage boys or active adult males it’s more like 2800. The pyramid guide is to assist you in getting the most nutrition possible from the foods you chose to make up that daily caloric intake.


There seems to be some effective methodology to the pyramid model as many modified versions, geared to specific dietary needs, have sprung up. Here are some examples:

  • The North American Vegetarian Pyramid which is for vegetarians

  • The Children’s Food Guide Pyramid

  • The Seniors Pyramid for those over the age of seventy

  • There are pyramid models available covering ethnic and cultural diets

  • The 12 Pyramids are tables specifically based upon age and gender

  • The Vegan Pyramid includes only four food groups due to the highly restrictive nature of a vegan lifestyle

  • The Harvard School of Public Health offers the Healthy Eating Pyramid as yet another alternative

  • The Diabetics Food Pyramid, put out by the American Dietetic Association has drawn caution warnings from The American Diabetes Association (the leaders in the field of diabetes) who emphatically do NOT condone this model for diabetics. They quote, “although the Diabetic Food Pyramid correctly follows the FDA recommended food guidelines it is a plan far more suited to non diabetics”. If you are a person with diabetes, check in with the American Diabetes Organization before embracing a pyramid model that may not in your best interests health wise.


The only notable concern with the USDA Food Guide Pyramid is political in nature. The USDA recommends that a minimum of five or more cups of fruit and vegetables should be consumed daily, which is twice as much as The World Health Organization deems necessary. The concerns are that the USDA (which is a federal governmental body) may be bowing to pressure from US food production agencies regarding those amounts.