The food guide pyramid may not look the same as you remember it. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently revamped it to be more accurate and user friendly. Here is a handy guide to understanding the new food pyramid.
- Grains-The orange portion on the very left hand side of the pyramid is the section dedicated to grains. A minimum of 3 oz. of whole grains are recommended per day for the average adult. Grains come in the form of bread, cereal, rice, pasta, and crackers, to name a few. It is important to choose "whole" grains to give you the most health benefits.
- Vegetables-The next stripe to the right is green and stands for vegetables. You may have as many servings of dark green leafy vegetables as you desire each day, but a minimum of 3 servings (usually ½ to 1 cup per serving) is recommended. Vary your veggies to include all colors to get the biggest benefits out of your vegetable servings. Dry beans also count toward your vegetable intake.
- Fruits-Next step on the pyramid is the red section for fruits. At least 2 servings are necessary to maintain optimal health. Fresh fruits and canned or frozen varieties without added sugars or syrups are highly recommended. Fruit juices tend to be high in sugar and limited consumption is suggested.
- Milk-The light blue section of the pyramid symbolizes the milk category. Three 8 oz. servings of milk, or products made with milk like cheese or yogurt, are necessary each day for a healthy diet. Choose low-fat or fat-free varieties to get the most value.
- Meat and Beans-The final purple section on the food pyramid is meat and beans. 5-6 oz. of these protein rich foods should be eaten daily. All meats, including beef, poultry, and fish, as well as most beans, eggs, and peanuts fit into this category. You probably already eat enough foods from this category, but most people need to choose leaner cuts for a more healthy diet.
Understanding the food pyramid and how to use it correctly is the first step toward making the right nutrition decisions. Getting enough of each category is important and a great way to begin a healthy diet.