The New Food Pyramid

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on August 17, 2005 · 1 comment

80% of American recognize the food pyramid, so the USDA decided it was worth keeping—with a little renovation.

The new food pyramid takes the 1992 version, turns it on its side, and adds a person climbing a set of stairs. The slogan, “Steps to a healthier you,” encourages people to be more active and make healthier food choices every day. A website ( offers 12 versions of the pyramid that can be personalized based on your age, sex, and activity level. So what does it all mean?

Exercise and healthy food selection are the basic messages of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The pyramid is a condensed visual reminder that emphasizes four basic messages: variety, moderation, proportion (eat more of some foods, less of others) and activity.

The person climbing up one side of the pyramid reminds each of us to be active daily – 30 minutes for adults and 60 minutes for children. This part of the pyramid has been critized for not recognizing the millions of people with diabilities who cannot climb stairs.

Variety, moderation, and proportion are displayed by the vertical color bands. Grains (orange), vegetables (green), fruits (red), and milk (blue) take up the most space and should make up the majority of your food choices. The purple narrower band represents meat, beans and other protein foods. The yellow – and narrowest – band is for oils and fats, showing that you should less of these choices.

For each food group there are key eating messages.

– Choose at least 3 whole grain foods each day

– Vary your choices – eat more dark green and orange veggies
– Eat more dry beans and peas

– Vary your fruit choices
– Go easy on fruit juices, which pack a lot of calories

Milk and other dairy food:
– Choose lowfat and nonfat milk, cheese, and yogurt
– If you can’t drink milk, choose calcium fortified foods and drinks

Meats and beans:
– Use low-fat or lean meat and poultry
– Vary your protein choices, eating fish, beans, nuts, nut butter, tofu, soy proteins, and seeds
– Bake, broil, and grill

Fats and oils:
– Make most of your fat sources from fish, nuts, and vegetables oils
– Limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, and lard

The remodeled food guide pyramid is both ambitious and optimistic in its message to Americans. It’s encouraging more fruits, vegetables, milk, and beans than most of us eat, and far less meat and fat than we normally consume. And, it is a well-known fact that less than one-third of Americans are active daily.

Few people will achieve all the recommendations suggested. But, if the next time you eat grapes instead of a candy bar, order your lunch sandwich on a whole wheat roll, or climb the three flights of stairs back to your office, you’ll be headed in the right direction.

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Michel August 18, 2015 at 1:51 am

Tamar, I just read your work on the great fish swap. Loved your line about the FDA fishing editcauon unclear. Hope you’re having a wonderful vac…


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