USDA nutritionists spent many years designing, testing, and refining the Food Guide Pyramid. The goal was to have an easy-to-use graphic that would help people select a diet that promoted nutritional health and decreased the risk of disease. They designed the Pyramid to be flexible enough to be used by most healthy Americans over the age of two. However, they also recognized that people with substantially different eating habits, such as vegetarians, may need a different food guidance system.
The Pyramid includes five major food groups, each of which provides nutrients needed for good health. By making healthful choices within these food groups, like selecting low-fat and high-fiber foods, people can promote good health and reduce their risk of disease. The placement of foods within the Pyramid shows that foods of plant origin should supply most of the servings of food in the daily diet.
The Breads, Cereals, Rice, and Pasta Group forms the base of the Pyramid, with the largest number of servings recommended (six to eleven servings recommended daily). The next layer up includes the Fruit Group (two to four servings) and the Vegetable Group (three to five servings). At the third level are the Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group (two to three servings) and the Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts Group (two to three servings). At the tip of the Pyramid are Fats, Oils, and Sweets. These foods calorie: unit of food energy and food ingredients should be used "sparingly" to avoid excess calories and/or fat. It is not necessary to completely avoid foods such as salad dressing, butter, margarine, candy, soft drinks, and sweet desserts, but they should be consumed infrequently.
The Pyramid includes symbols that represent the fats and added sugars found in foods. These are most concentrated at the tip of the Pyramid, but are also found in foods from the five major food groups. This reveals that some foods within the five food groups are high in fat and/or sugar. People can limit their fat and sugar intake, as suggested by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, by selecting foods low in fat and added sugars most of the time.
saturated fat: a fat with the maximum possible number of hydrogens; more difficult to break down than unsaturated fats heart disease: any disorder of the heart or its blood supply, including heart attack, atherosclerosis, and coronary artery disease obesity: the condition of being overweight, according to established norms based on sex, age, and height energy: technically, the ability to perform work; the content of a substance that allows it to be useful as a fuel
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