The Food Guide Pyramid



The Food Guide Pyramid builds on the former "basic four food groups." The Pyramid emphasizes foods from five food groups, plus a category for fats, oils, and sweets. Each group provides some, but not all, of the necessary nutrients.

Fat and added sugars are concentrated in foods from the Pyramid tip - Fats, Oils, and Sweets. Foods in this category supply calories, but few vitamins and minerals. It is important to use these foods sparingly, so that your diet supplies the vitamins and minerals you need without excess calories.

You can see fat or sugar symbols in the food groups making up the Pyramid. They show how some food choices in these food groups can also be high in fat or added sugars.

This symbol represents fat in foods. Generally, foods that come from animals (milk and meat) are naturally higher in fat than foods that come from plants (fruits, vegetables, and grains). Low-fat dairy and lean meat choices are available, but low-fat preparation methods are important, too.


Added sugars
This symbol represents sugars added to foods during processing, food preparation, or at the table. It does not represent the sugars found naturally in fruits and milk. Added sugars provide calories but few vitamins and minerals. For example, ice cream, sweetened yogurt, chocolate milk, canned or frozen fruit packed in heavy sugar, and bakery products such as cakes and cookies represent foods from various groups with added sugars. Foods in the Pyramid tip that contain added sugar include soft drinks, candy, jams, jellies, syrups, and table sugar added to foods such as coffee or breakfast cereal.

Tips to help you control the amount of fat and sugar in your diet:

What is a serving?
The Pyramid shows a range of serving for each food group. The exact number of servings a person should eat depends on how many calories are needed. That, in turn, depends on your:

For most people, the servings listed should be used only as a general guide. While some people feel this amount of food is too much for 10- and 11- year olds, this age group needs the same variety of foods as older family members. Ten- and 11- year olds should have at least the lowest number of servings shown on the Pyramid for the bread, fruit, vegetable, and meat groups. However, to account for their special nutrient needs, 10- and 11- year olds need three servings of milk each day.

Children in the 10- to 11- year old age group may be very self-conscious about appearance and may decide that they need to lose weight. They need to understand that people do not have to be the same size or shape.

Overweight children should not be encouraged to go on strick weight reduction plans. During a health check-up, the physician will recommend a course of action. A safe approach to losing weight is to encourage:

The following amounts of food count as a serving. If you eat a larger portion, count it as more than one serving.

Milk, Yogurt, Cheese Group

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 1/2 ounces hard cheese
  • 2 ounces processed cheese

Fruit Group

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange, pear, or peach
  • 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
  • 3/4 cup fruit juice

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, & Nuts Group

  • 2-3 ounces cooked meat, fish, poultry
  • 1/2 cup cooked beans, 1 egg, or 2 tablespoons peanut butter counts as 1 ounce of lean meat

Bread, Cereal, Rice, & Pasta Group

  • 1 slice bread
  • half a bun
  • 1 ounce cereal
  • 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta


Vegetable Group

  • 1/2 cup cooked or chopped raw vegetables
  • 1 cup raw leafy greens
  • 3/4 cup vegetable juice

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