USDA Food Guide Pyramid

[Note: The following article is the most visited in ProHealth's library, and offers very useful info on what constitutes a "serving" in each food group. But it is in some ways outdated. The USDA releases new dietary guidelines periodically, and the most recent "pyramid" – with much-reduced emphasis on grains – is featured at There you can click on each of the vertical stripes in the pyramid for information about that food group. Most important, there's a page titled "MyPyramid Plan" where you can enter your age, sex, weight (optional), height, and physical activity level to receive tailored info on the daily amount of each food group that may be right for you.]


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid is an outline of what to eat each day based on the USDA Dietary Guidelines. It's not a rigid prescription but a general guide that lets you choose a healthful diet that's right for you. The Pyramid calls for eating a variety of foods to get the nutrients you need and at the same time the right amount of calories to maintain healthy weight.

Use the Pyramid to help you eat better according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Start with plenty of breads, cereals, rice, pasta, vegetables, and fruits. Add 2-3 servings from the milk group and 2-3 servings from the meat group. Remember to go easy on fats, oils, and sweets, the foods in the small tip of the Pyramid.

food pyramid

What Counts as One Serving?

The amount of food that counts as one serving is listed below. If you eat a larger portion, count it as more than 1 serving. For example, a dinner portion of spaghetti would count as 2 or 3 servings of pasta.

The pyramid recommends eating at least the lowest number of servings from the five major food groups listed below. You need them for the vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and protein they provide. Just try to pick the lowest fat choices from the food groups. No specific serving size is given for the fats, oils, and sweets group because the message is USE SPARINGLY.

Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese: 2-3 Servings

1 cup of milk or yogurt

1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese

2 ounces of processed cheese

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts: 2-3 Servings

2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish

1/2 cup of cooked dry beans

1 egg, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter count as 1 ounce of lean meat

Vegetable: 3-5 Servings

1 cup of raw leafy vegetables

1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw

3/4 cup of vegetable juice

Fruit: 2-4 Servings

1 medium apple, banana, orange

1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit

3/4 cup of fruit juice

Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta: 6-11

1 slice of bread

1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal

1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta

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