Breaking Down The USDA Food Pyramid Recommendations

The new USDA food pyramid has had a bit of a face lift, but it is much the same as it always was. Let’s have a quick break down of the food pyramid, and see what each food group means to you and your health. We’ll start with the foods that we need the largest servings from and work our way down, or up as it is in the original food guide pyramid.

The Grain Group

Bread, cereal, rice and pasta represent the food group that we need to eat the most of. This food group represents grains. On the old food pyramid, they are the items on the very bottom. But on the new color coordinated pyramid, they are the color orange. 

The pyramid suggests 6 -11 servings per day of half or whole grain foods. The reason this food group contains the largest serving is because it is one of the most important. These foods are considered complex carbohydrates and provide our bodies the energy we need to get through the day.   

The Vegetable Group

Everyone knows that vegetables are good for you, but you might not know why. Vegetables are important because they give us vitamins and minerals. Our bodies need the vitamins A and C, folic acid, iron, and magnesium that vegetables provide. They are low in calories, but high in nutrients. It is recommended that we eat 3-5 servings per day. Vegetables are represented by the color green on the new pyramid.

The Fruit Group

Fruit is next on the pyramid because it is suggested that we eat 2-4 servings per day. Fruit aids a healthy lifestyle because they are low in sodium and fat, and high in vitamins and potassium. Much research has shown that people who incorporate more fruits into their diet regularly are at lower risks for getting cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. This is because fruit is great for building up the immune system. On the new pyramid, fruit is represented by the color red.

The Milk Group

The Milk, or Dairy Group, includes milk, yogurt and cheese. 2-3 servings are suggested for this group per person. But, it is suggested that young people and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should have 1 extra serving of one these milk products.  Vitamins provide vitamins, minerals, and protein. Milk products also build strong bones. It’s important to remember to try not to indulge in too many fatty dairy products. Look for items that have low fat, no fat and skim milk. On the new pyramid this group is light blue.

The Meat and Beans Group

On the new food pyramid, the purple color represents meat and beans. They have the same suggested serving size as the milk group, which is 2-3 servings. Fish, meat, and poultry are all great sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals. They also offer us iron, B vitamins, and zinc. Although this group has very good sources for nutrition, they should be enjoyed in moderation because they are also high in sodium, fat, and cholesterol, which can contribute to high blood pressure and other negative health effects. The key to unlocking all of the benefits in this food group is moderation. It is suggested that people eat leaner cuts of meat and watch their portions.

Oils Group

Oils, fats, and sugars are part of a balanced diet. They represent the smallest part of the USDA food pyramid. They are at the top of the pyramid on the old guide, and a tiny sliver of yellow on the new guide.  The items in this group should be used very sparingly. Oils, fats and sugars need to be eaten rarely because they offer calories, but little nutritional value. It is inevitable that the items in this group will be hiding in some of the other groups, and that is okay. You just have to make sure that you monitor how much.

By adhering to the food pyramid recommendations and consuming a wide variety of foods, you can enjoy multiple health benefits for years to come.


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  • Kathy Stone

    Why is milk represented as BLUE on the food pyramid? Why is meats represented by the color purple on the food pyramid? A Kindergarten student asked me yesterday. Students suggested the color of the rainbow…….but not in order!!!

    Here are answer’s proposed by the 2nd grade……Blue.. for milk…. may be because it’s a liquid, and the ocean is blue?? Milk is Vitamin D. The sun is vitamin D. The sky is blue!!!

    No one could guess PURPLE for meat and grains…. I have NO CLUE……HELP.

    Thank you…..Kathy Stone