Understanding Food Pyramid and How to Use It

Understanding Food Pyramid and How to Use It


The food pyramid represents the optimum number of servings to eat every day from each of the basic food groups. It basically outlines the balanced diet that everyone should follow to provide the body with all the essential nutrients – both major and minor.

The idea of coming up with a food pyramid begun with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to give an outline of food choices for its citizens in the year 1992. The food pyramid, or the food guide pyramid as it was called, has been the main source of nutrition guidance since the USDA introduced it. It was updated in 2005 and has been replaced by My Plate in 2011. Here is how to understand the food pyramid and how to use it.

Understanding the Food Pyramid

The typical food pyramid is divided into horizontal sections depicting foods from each sections’ food group based on their importance starting at the bottom of the pyramid. It was however modified in 2005 and renamed MyPyramid with a more abstract design which was again replaced by MyPlate. Whatever might be the design irrespective whether it is a pyramid or a plate, it mainly suggests healthy eating guidelines aimed at providing a balanced diet for the general public. The recommendations are as follows.

Whole Grains

Food pyramids stress the importance of whole grains to be involved in daily diet as they are of utmost importance. Whole grains are associated with increased cardiovascular health and are also good at reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes which can cause further health complications. Whole grains also improve gastrointestinal health and aid in weight management. Some of the whole grains recommended are millets, barley and quinoa.

Vegetable and Fruits

Almost all the food pyramids stress the importance of including fruits and veggies in daily diet. They are required by the body everyday as they give the needed amounts of vitamins and minerals. Further, vegetables and fruits are the sources of vitamins including A, C and E, zinc, magnesium and phosphorous together with folic acid. Vegetable and fruits to include in daily diet are apples; citrus fruits like oranges, grapes and mandarins; stone fruits like peaches, plums and apricots; bananas; mangoes; and, berries. Vegetables include: leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, potatoes, cucumbers and zucchini.

Meat, Milk Products, Nuts and Seeds

While meat and fish are important protein sources required by the body; milk, nuts and seeds are good sources of proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and fats. The calcium and phosphorous present in milk and other products help in having stronger bones, vitamin A in them is good for the immune system. Nuts and seeds on the other hand are the powerhouses of good fats, vitamins and minerals. They are also rich in fiber and contain minerals including calcium, zinc, magnesium and phosphorous.

Oils and Sweets

Oils and sweets comprise the small part of the food pyramid depicting that they should comprise the smallest percentage of the diet. The reason why they are suggested to be eaten very sparingly is because they provide the calories but do not have much in the way of nutrition. Most of this part comprises of ghee, coconut oil, fats and sweets. The oils should come from vegetables, nuts and can even include fish oil and the portions should be limited.

In a nutshell, the basic arrangement of the food pyramid reflects that we all should eat more whole grains and also eat ample amounts of fruits and veggies. The idea is to try different meal plans a day and sneak in all the food groups throughout the day. Together with these, exercise plan and drinking enough water throughout the day should be your daily routine which outlines good food habits.