The New Food Pyramid

Since the release of the original Food Pyramid in 1992 as a visual aid to help Americans understand the USDA's dietary guidelines, it has become one of the most familiar tools for educators and nutritionists. The USDA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services recently released an updated version of the food pyramid, designed to improve its effectiveness in motivating and helping citizens to make healthier food choices. The new food pyramid is called MyPyramid and it has been modified from the original in several significant ways.

Alarmed by statistics which indicate obesity has increased over the past decade, the new Pyramid is designed to be a better, more accurate, and easier to follow guide for proper nutrition. MyPyramid has a new symbol and a revised diet and physical activity guide that comes with interactive Internet tools. According to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, “MyPyramid is about the ability of Americans to personalize their approach when choosing a healthier lifestyle that balances nutrition and exercise. Many Americans can dramatically improve their overall health by making modest improvements to their diets and by incorporating regular physical activity into their daily lives.”

What's different about MyPyramid?

The old food pyramid separated food groups and stacks them horizontally based on the recommended number of servings to be consumed per day, with grains, at 6-11 servings per day, at the bottom and fats, oils, and sweets, which should be used sparingly, at the top.

The new food pyramid replaces the horizontal blocks with vertical triangular sections of color representing the different food groups across the front, proportionate to the amount you should eat of each group. Other changes have been made to make the concept easier to follow and apply. For example, "Servings" has been changed to household measures like Cups. Features of the Pyramid program that the new symbol is intended to reflect are:

  • Personalization -- Subdividing the main Pyramid into smaller ones is intended to make it easier for people to find a plan that works for them.

  • Gradual improvement -- The motto “Steps to a Healthier You” is meant to reassure people that their goals can be achieved by moving in small steps.

  • Physical activity -- The image of a stylized person climbing steps represents the importance of physical activity.
  • Variety -- The six rainbow color bands of the Pyramid represent the five food groups plus Oils that are essential for good health.
  • Moderation -- Each food group triangle narrows towards the top of the Pyramid, and this expresses the need for moderation in food intake.
  • Proportionality -- The food group bands vary in width, indicating how much food should be chosen from each food group.

The new pyramid seeks to emphasize the importance of making the right eating choices. It focuses on the specific food groups and which foods within each group to eat more of, so each food group is also in the shape of a pyramid. The wider base in each group stands for healthier food in each food group that have little or no fat or added sugars and should form the basis of your diet. The narrow top of each food group represents foods with fats and added sugars. For example, on the orange band representing grains, a slice of whole grain bread would fall on the bottom and a donut would be at the top. Thus, the new pyramid emphasizes whole grains over refined, lean meats and low fat dairy products over higher fat animal products, and similar healthy eating choices.

The new pyramid is more interactive and personalized than the old one. There are 12 different versions, based on different age, sex, and physical activity level. This allows the pyramid to reflect the individual needs of different Americans more accurately.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has created a website explaining the new food pyramid - You can also see a quick video explaining the new pyramid by clicking here.

Words to live by - MyPyramid provides a useful guide to good health and nutrition

The design for the new Food Pyramid is a reflection of the recommendations expressed in a 70-page booklet released in January entitled "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005." The booklet was authored by a panel of scientists and doctors and includes 23 general recommendations and 18 suggestions specifically aimed at the elderly, children and other special populations. All of this information couldn't be presented on a single Food Pyramid, so the new "rainbow" design was adopted and is intended to be referred to in conjunction with the interactive website. It is hoped that the new user-friendly Food Pyramid will be a more useful guide to good health and nutrition.

For more information on MyPyramid and kids see the following article from TheDietChannel: The Food Guide Pyramid for Kids Explained.