It's a Pyramid! | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


As I started to prepare for this post, I thought I knew all about the food pyramid! You know, it’s a pyramid, it tells you how much of each food group you should eat, and it’s, um well, a pyramid! How complicated could it be right? Well, get ready for lots of links!!

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans [Dietary Guidelines], first published in 1980, provides science-based advice to promote health and to reduce risk for chronic diseases through diet and physical activity. The recommendations contained within the Dietary Guidelines are targeted to the general public over 2 years of age who are living in the United States. Because of its focus on health promotion and risk reduction, the Dietary Guidelines form the basis of federal food, nutrition education, and information programs.

Since 1980, the Guidelines have been jointly issued and updated every 5 years by the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS).

A look back at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

  • 1980
  • 1985
  • 1990
  • 1995 – This is the year the pyramid made it’s appearance. The nutrition facts we see on all foods also made their debut in 1995.
  • 2000
  • 2005

It’s interesting if you look at each set of guidelines. The first couple are small pamphlets of about 12-14 pages (and I’m sorry, but the scans are terrible. It looks like someone spilled coffee on one of them). With each new set, the pages double and sometime triple, and they’re remarkably clean and coffee stain free! All the information is basically the same, but the detail gets better and better, and the focus turns more to healthy eating and physical activity.

Unlike the past pyramids, the current pyramid doesn’t give a general number of servings for each group. It seems that the powers that be have realized that individual needs vary based on weight, height, physical activity, and age.

Inside the pyramid (please click the links for more information and examples of foods from each group):

  • Grains – Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain is a grain product. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are examples of grain products.
  • Vegetables – Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a member of the vegetable group. Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed.
  • Fruits – Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed.
  • Milk – All fluid milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Foods made from milk that retain their calcium content are part of the group, while foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, such as cream cheese, cream, and butter, are not. Most milk group choices should be fat-free or low-fat.
  • Meat & Beans – All foods made from meat, poultry, fish, dry beans or peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds are considered part of this group. Dry beans and peas are part of this group as well as the vegetable group. Most meat and poultry choices should be lean or low-fat. Fish, nuts, and seeds contain healthy oils, so choose these foods frequently instead of meat or poultry.
  • Oils – Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like the vegetable oils used in cooking. Oils come from many different plants and from fish.
  • Discretionary Calories
  • Physical Activity – Physical activity simply means movement of the body that uses energy. Walking, gardening, briskly pushing a baby stroller, climbing the stairs, playing soccer, or dancing the night away are all good examples of being active. For health benefits, physical activity should be moderate or vigorous and add up to at least 30 minutes a day.

So what does all this mean for you? Loosely speaking, the serving recommendations have stayed about the same. You still want to get most of your daily intake from whole grains, closely followed up by veggies, and then fruit and lean meats are just about in a tie, and beneficial oils bring up the rear. Oh yeah, those discretionary calories are basically there in case you have extra calories leftover at the end of day, and you can use them to bulk up your meals or to indulge. And let’s don’t forget physical activity! Apparently your supposed to get some each day :), and 60-90 minutes is what is recommended if your interested in losing weight!

You can view the pyramid guidelines based on calorie intake here. This is helpful if you are dieting because the main pyramid is based on a 2000 calorie diet. Who eats 2000 calories? Seriously?

If you have questions about the pyramid, you can find lots and lots of answers here.

The MyPyramid feature uses your stats to show you your personal pyramid. Note that if you’re overweight (which is why you’re here right!) then it gives you the option of seeing what you should consume at your current weight or what you should consume to get to a healthy weight.

And finally, if you’re looking for ways to get your kids on the path to eating healthy, they have programs and guidelines for preschoolers (2-5) and kids (6-11). You’ll find online games, print-ables, and tips on discussing healthy eating with your kids!

Go forth and click links!!

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