The food guide pyramid was introduced in 1992 by the United States Department of Agriculture. The pyramid was revamped in 2005 and then again in 2011, when it became known as MyPlate. The new food guide “pyramid” is actually designed to look like a plate, with the intent that the image will be easier to relate to for most people. Like the food pyramid, the plate contains six major food groups: fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, grains and oils.
Foods such as wheat, rice, oats, barley or cornmeal belong in the grains food group. Foods in this group are further categorized into whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains are those that contain the entire grain kernel, and refined grains are those from which the bran and germ portion of the grain has been removed through milling. The ideal intake is 3 to 4 ounces per day. The USDA recommends making at least half of your daily grain intake whole grains. Examples of whole grains include oatmeal, popcorn, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta and wild rice. Examples of refined grains include white bread, white pasta, white rice and pretzels.
Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, soy foods, beans, peas and any items made from these foods belong to the protein group. The USDA recommends choosing a variety of these foods — and including at least 8 ounces of seafood per week — to meet your nutritional needs. Some protein foods contain more saturated fat than others. Choose lean meat and poultry over ground beef and chicken with the skin. Limit deli meats and processed meats, like sausage and hot dogs, which contain high amounts of sodium. Recommended intake ranges from 5 to 6.5 ounces depending on your age, sex and activity level.
The fruit group includes any whole fruit or 100 percent fruit juice. The exact amount of fruit you need each day depends on several factors, like age, sex and activity level, but general recommendations range from 1.5 to 2 cups. To get the most nutritional value, vary your fruit choices to consume a variety of nutrients. Increase your fiber intake by choosing whole fruits over fruit juice as much as possible. When opting for canned fruit, choose fruit that is preserved in water, rather than sugary syrup.
The vegetable group includes any whole vegetables or 100 percent vegetable juice. Vegetables may be raw, cooked, fresh, canned, frozen or dehydrated. General vegetable recommendations range from 2 to 3 cups, depending on your age, sex and activity level. To get the most nutrition out of your vegetables, vary your intake and choose vegetables of different colors. When opting for canned vegetables, choose low-sodium or no-salt-added versions.
All fluid milk and products made from milk, such as cheese, yogurt, ice cream and pudding, belong to the dairy group. All adults should consume 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free dairy products each day. If you usually drink whole milk or full-fat products, gradually switch to lower fat versions to reduce total saturated fat and calorie intake.
The oil group includes healthy fats and foods that are naturally high in healthy oils, such as nuts, olives, avocados and some fish. Oils not only provide important nutrients, like vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, but they also allow your body to properly absorb the fat-soluble vitamins. The fats in these foods also help you maintain your body temperature and cushion your major organs. Your daily oil allowance falls between 5 and 7 teaspoons, depending on your age, gender and activity level.