The Food Guide Pyramid for Kids Explained

Thursday, July 26, 2007 - 4:21pm

By Karen Crawford, MS, RD, CSP

As a pediatric dietitian and a mother of a 14-month-old, I understand the daily pressure of ensuring my little one's diet is complete. Knowing how complicated nutrition information can be, it is understandable why the general population is so confused and frustrated. Fortunately, there is a government-sponsored resource that brings clarity and guidance to child nutrition.

In 1916 the USDA introduced the very first Food Guide Pyramid. It provided organization to the American diet and a nutritional framework, but was rarely referenced outside the classroom. After four more updates, in 2005, the USDA introduced the new and improved Food Guide Pyramid, called MyPyramid. MyPyramid is unique in that it emphasizes both diet and exercise in realistic terms, and does so in a measurable, color-coded, and easy-to-apply format. In addition, there is a version for children called MyPyramid for Kids. The message to kids is simple: Eat Right. Exercise. Have Fun.

What does "eat right" mean for kids?

MyPyramid for Kids is divided into 6 color-coded categories, each representing different foods groups that, when combined, provide complete nutrition.

  • Orange is for Grains
  • Green is for Vegetables
  • Red is for Fruit
  • Blue is for Milk
  • Purple is for Meats and Beans
  • Yellow is for Oils

Within each category, the USDA has made recommendations on the type of food, how to choose the best foods, and most important, the serving size in cups or ounces.



Portion Goal (for an 1,800 calorie diet*)


"Search the ingredients list to make sure the first word is ‘whole' (like in ‘whole wheat')."

6 ounce equivalents


"Go dark green with broccoli and spinach, or try orange ones like carrots and sweet potatoes."

2 ½ cups


"Go easy on juice and make sure it is 100%"

1 ½ cups


"Look at the carton or container to make sure your milk, yogurt or cheese is low fat or fat-free."

3 cups

Meat and Beans

"Eat lean or low-fat meat, chicken, turkey or fish. Ask for baked, broiled or grilled--not fried."

5 ounce equivalents


"Get your oils from fish, nuts and liquid oils such as corn oil, soy oil and canola oil."

Limit your intake

* To find the amounts that are right for your child, go to

The MyPyramid for Kids graphic found at really is a one-stop shop for information on a healthy diet. The foods pictured at the base of the category section are those our children should consume more often. Moving up, as the category section narrows, this represents foods such as refined breads and cereals, starchy vegetables, fruit juices, high-fat dairy products, and fatty meats that should be chosen less often. This philosophy echoes my favorite saying, "There are no bad foods; everything in moderation." In other words, all foods play a role in fulfilling our children's nutrition requirements. Some should just be consumed more often than others.

What exercise should kids do?

The child climbing up the side of the pyramid represents much needed exercise. Kids should be active every single day. A few of the traditional favorites include riding a bike, trips to the playground, any sport with a ball, swimming, and just being a kid outside. Exercise works hand-in-hand with a healthy diet to build a healthy child.

Healthy eating and daily exercise, but most of all have fun!

MyPyramid for Kids is an excellent resource for parents to look to when planning meals and teaching their kids about nutrition. Leading a healthy lifestyle should be fun and relatively easy when you are armed with the correct information. Visit for more information.