The Food Guide Pyramid--For You
Flexible and full of food choices-the Food Guide Pyramid is meant for you! No matter what your age--from 2 years and over--or your lifestyle, the Pyramid can be your personal guide to healthful eating. It offers simple, practical advice to help you make choices that are consistent with the seven Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Third Edition, 1990
The Pyramid encourages the basic principles of a healthful diet: variety, balance and moderation.
Variety: No single food supplies all the nutrients you need. A varied diet includes many different foods from the Pyramid's five major food groups which together meet nutritional recommendations.
Balance: A balanced diet incorporates appropriate amounts of foods from all five food groups every day, providing needed calories and nutrients. Your age, sex and physical activity level make a difference in the number of servings needed to maintain a well-balanced diet.
Moderation: Carefully selecting foods and beverages helps you control calories and the total amount of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, salt, sugars and, if consumed, alcoholic beverages. This allows more flexibility to enjoy the variety of foods available.
Fat (naturally occurring and added)
These symbols show fat and added sugars in foods. They come mostly from the fats, oils, and sweets group. But foods in other groups--such as cheese or ice cream from the milk group or french fries from the vegetable group-can also provide fat and added sugars.
Source: U S. Department of Agriculture/V. S Department of Health and Human Services
You can adapt the Pyramid's advice to match your personal tastes and nutritional needs. In fact, the Pyramid can be the food selection guide to meet differing needs of each family member, ages two and over. It may even help liven up your diet by expanding your food choices.
To make the most of the Pyramid, you need to know what counts as a serving.
|Food Group||Serving Size|
Rice and Pasta
|1 slice bread, 1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal, 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice or pasta, 5-6 small crackers|
|Vegetable||1 cup raw, leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup cooked or chopped raw vegetables, 3/4 cup vegetable juice|
|Fruit||1 medium apple, banana or orange,1/2 cup chopped, cooked, or canned fruit, 3/4 cup fruit juice|
|1 cup milk or yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces natural cheese, 2 ounces process cheese|
Fish, Dry Beans,
Eggs and Nuts
|2 - 3 ounces cooked lean meat, poultry or fish Foods which count as 1 ounce of meat: 1/2 cup cooked dry beans, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1/3 cup nuts|
The range of servings of each food group in the Pyramid offers lots of flexibility. The right amount for you depends on your age, sex, body size and activity level.
The table below shows how many servings of each major food group can be included at different calorie levels. Preschool children need the same variety of foods as older family members do, but may need less than 1,600 calories.
many active men
and some very
|Meat Group||5 ounces||6 ounces||7 ounces|
*Pregnancy and breast feeding may require more calories. **Women who are pregnant or breast feeding, teenagers, and young adults to age 24 need three servings
Healthful eating doesn't mean giving up foods and beverages you like best. Just learn how to balance your food choices. You can fit in your traditional favorites and enjoy your meals and snacks while still promoting your good health
Focus on foods such as pasta, rice and whole-grain and enriched breads and cereals; vegetables; fruits; low fat dairv foods; lean meats, poultry, fish and legumes. These foods provide the framework for a healthful diet.
|Control calories and fat in food selection and preparation. For example, broil, roast, steam or stir-fry your favorite cut of lean meat, poultry without skin, or fish. ||Modify traditional recipes to cut back on fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, added sugars and/or sodium. For example, try substituting plain, low fat yogurt for sour cream in dips or spreads, or use two egg whites or an egg substitute instead of one whole egg in baked foods. ||Read food labels when you shop. The Nutrition Facts panel can help you compare the calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars and other nutrients in foods. Use this information to fit foods into your diet. ||Eat smaller amounts of the richer foods you like. |
No foods are "good" or "bad" for you; it's your total diet that counts. So there's no need to eliminate any one food. Every food can fit into a varied, moderate and balanced diet.
Wrap Variety into Just One Dish!
Pizza, tacos, chef's salad, omelets-in what food group? Actually, more than one. Mixed, or combination, foods can wrap ingredients from two or more food groups into one food.
Mixed foods help you meet the recommendations of the Pyramid, while adding flavor and enjoyment to your meals!
Consider a chicken burrito. Two ounces of shredded, broiled chicken offer 2 ounces from the meat group. A soft tortilla counts as 1 bread group serving. Three tablespoons (3/4 ounce) of low or reduced fat Monterey Jack cheese add 1/2 milk group serving. And 1/4 cup chopped tomato and 1/2 cup shredded lettuce add 1 vegetable group serving.
Add a Menu Dimension...
|Making lasagna? Save some fat by switching from regular mozzarella to reduced-fat mozzarella. To save more fat, substitute low fat cottage or ricotta cheese for whole milk ricotta. Then spend some of the fat savings on a little margarine to make crusty Italian garlic bread. ||Use fat-free dressing on your salad at lunch. For a snack later on, enjoy some guacamole dip with low fat crackers or raw vegetables. ||Grill or bake chicken breasts for dinner and remove the skin for more fat savings. Then if you'd like, enjoy a serving of frozen yogurt for dessert. |
Trading Off Sugars...
|Top your breakfast waffles with fresh berries instead of syrup. You'll save on sugars and calories ... and get more nutrients and fiber, too. Save the sugars for a sweet snack or beverage in the afternoon. ||For your mid-morning snack, choose fruit yogurt with low-calorie sweetener. Then spend your sugar savings on some jelly or honey with a roll later in the day. |
Use the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels to help make trade-offs. This panel shows how many calories as well as how much fat, saturated fat and total sugars are in a serving. The amount shown for sugars includes those that occur naturally--such as in milk or fruit--and those that are added. -The ingredient list will name added sugars.
Sugars added to foods enhance taste and perform other important functions in baking, cooking and preserving foods. While they provide calories, they contribute few other nutrients.
Remember, the amount of fat and sugars you eat over time is what counts. So, when you trade off, don't panic if you over-indulge on one day; simply cut back on fat and sugars the next day.
Put Action in Your Life!
Like sound eating habits, regular physical activity is a part of a healthv lifestvle.
Among its many benefits, exercise burns calories and can help you manage your weight. Increasing your physical activity can also allow you to eat more calories without weight gain. Choose those extra calories mainly from the five major food groups.
Remember: The only way to lose weight is to use more calories than you consume. Apply the same principles--variety, balance and moderation--to both food choices and exercise. Always check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.
Variety: Enjoy many different activities to exercise different muscles, including your heart.
Balance: Because different activities have different benefits, balance your exercise pattern. For overall fitness, you need exercises that build cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, bone strength and flexibility.
Moderation: Exercise to keep fit, without overdoing. You don't need a heavy workout everyday. And although exercise recommendations vary, health experts do advise 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise in your daily routine, most days of the week.*
*American College of Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control
Build Your Personal Pyramid
Eating smart isn't just for today! To keep fit, you need to make balanced food choices for a lifetime. Start building your personal Pyramid now.
The beauty of the Food Guide Pyramid truly is its flexibility. As you grow older or your lifestyle, health condition or activity level changes, simply adjust how many servings of each food group you eat.