Thursday, June 19, 2008

What is the Food Guide Pyramid?

The Food Guide Pyramid is part of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans presented by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. The Guidelines are designed to help Americans choose diets that will meet nutrient requirements, promote health, support active lives, and reduce chronic disease risks.

Most Americans of all ages eat fewer than the recommended number of servings of grain products, vegetables, and fruits, even though consumption of these foods is associated with a substantially lower risk for many chronic diseases, including certain types of cancer.

Here is the recommended breakdown for each day:

The Right Number of Servings for You

The Pyramid gives a range for the number of servings for each group because these will vary by person depending upon age, gender and activity level. You should check with your doctor to be sure which guidelines are right for you.

For example:
  • For older adults, and many inactive women, choosing the minimum suggested number of servings within each food group will provide approximately 1600 calories per day.
  • For children, teenage girls, active women and many inactive men, choosing the mid-range suggested number of servings will provide approximately 2200 calories per day.
  • For women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, active men, teenage boys and athletes, choosing the high-end suggested number of servings will provide the approximately 2800 calories per day.
Make Sense of Serving Sizes
Not only do the number of servings differ for various types of people, but the serving sizes of various foods also differ - even among similar foods.

What Counts as a Serving?
In order to evaluate your nutrition, you need to know how much is enough - or appropriate - to eat. While serving sizes differ widely by type of food, here are some examples to help you make sense of the choices you make. These come from the Food Guide Pyramid and are based on both suggested and usually-consumed portions necessary for adequate nutrient intake.

Grain Products Group (bread, cereal, rice, and pasta)
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal
  • 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta

Vegetable Group
  • 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
  • 1/2 cup of other vegetables -- cooked or chopped raw
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable juice

Fruit Group
  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange
  • 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
  • 3/4 cup of fruit juice

Milk Group (milk, yogurt, and cheese)
  • 1 cup of milk or yogurt
  • 1-1/2 ounces of natural cheese
  • 2 ounces of processed cheese

Meat and Beans Group (meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts)
  • 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
  • 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans or 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat.
  • Two tablespoons of peanut butter or 1/3 cup of nuts count as 1 ounce of meat.

Some foods fit into more than one group. Dry beans, peas, and lentils can be counted as servings in either the meat and beans group or the vegetable group. These "cross over" foods can be counted as servings from either one or the other group, but not both.

The serving sizes indicated here differ from what you might see on the Nutrition Facts Label found on many food products, which reflect only portions usually-consumed. Notice that some of the serving sizes may be smaller than what you might usually eat.

Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Fourth Edition, 2005, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

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