What Is the Food Pyramid?


Quick Answer

The food pyramid is a diagram that illustrates a healthy diet by organizing foods into groups based on recommended serving sizes, according to the Santa Clara University Wellness Center. The pyramid is divided into tiers, and foods with the least nutritional value, such as sweets, are at the top. Foods that should make up the largest portion of daily calories, such as breads, are displayed on the wide bottom tier.

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Full Answer

A balanced daily diet includes six to 11 servings of grains and pasta; two to four servings of fruit; three to five servings of veggies; two to three servings of meat, legumes and fish; two to three servings of dairy products; and as few servings as possible of sweet or fatty foods, according to the SCU Wellness Center. The serving sizes reflect the essential nutrients each group offers. For example, the carbohydrates in grains provide glucose to fuel the body, and the meat and dairy groups are important protein sources.

The classic food pyramid was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture until 2005, when it was re-envisioned as MyPyramid, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. The updated diagram organized the food groups horizontally across the pyramid using color-coded sections. MyPyramid didn't contain any descriptive text and was considered too abstract for the public to understand. In 2011, the USDA unveiled a new food guide known as the Healthy Eating Plate. The diagram is similar to a pie chart, providing a visual representation of how much fruit, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy products each meal should include. On the plate, the green section is the largest, and it represents vegetables. The orange section is the second largest, and it represents grains. The purple section is the third largest, and it represents protein. The final and smallest red section represents fruits. This differs from the food pyramid because it exchanges the old main section of carbohydrates for vegetables. Wikipedia explains that this decision was based on increasing scientific evidence that suggested that the old food pyramid was outdated and not medically sound.

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