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About the Food Guide Pyramid

The Food Guide Pyramid is an easy way to create a healthy diet. It consists of 6 food groups and 4 levels. You should eat more servings per day from the lower levels, fewer from the higher ones. Your age, gender, activity level and overall health will ultimately determine which type of diet is best for you, but the pyramid is a great place to start.

Food Pyramid

Grains form the lowest level and the foundation of the pyramid. Grains contain complex carbohydrates, B vitamins, iron, protein, magnesium and fiber. Eat 6 to 11 servings each day (at least 50% of your total calories) from this group, which includes cereals, rice and pasta.

Fruits and vegetables are the next level. These foods are naturally fat- and cholesterol-free, as well as low in sodium. They also contain a rich supply of vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, magnesium and fiber, which may reduce the risk of certain cancers. Be sure to get 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

Dairy, meat and meat alternatives are on the pyramid's third level. Dairy products – such as cheese and milk – provide calcium, protein, B vitamins and, when fortified, vitamins D and A. The meat and meat alternatives – which include poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts – are rich sources of protein, phosphorus, vitamins B6 and B12, zinc, magnesium, iron, niacin and thiamin. Eat 2 to 3 servings from each of these groups daily.

The top of the pyramid is for fats, oils and sweets. These foods are all high in calories, but low in nutritional value. Foods with high fat content include margarine, butter, salad dressing, mayonnaise, cream, cream cheese and sauces. Everything from cake, pie and doughnuts to soft drinks falls in the "sweets" category. Eat very sparingly from this group.


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