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The New Food Guide Pyramid

By Michele Batz

This is a new guide developed by the government in April, 2005. This guide is to promote healthy living. The old pyramid was developed 13 years ago when we didn't know as much about nutrition. For instance, in 1992, there was a lot less emphasis on whole grain foods than there is today. In order to keep up with the times, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) decided to update the pyramid.

The new pyramid is designed to remind people what they should eat to stay healthy. The old pyramid showed only foods. The new pyramid has been updated to include physical activity as well.

The new pyramid shows food groups as a series of differently sized colored bands. The colors are:

  • orange for grains
  • green for vegetables
  • red for fruit
  • yellow for fats and oils
  • blue for dairy
  • purple for meats, beans and fish

The bands are different widths to show how much of a particular food group a person should eat each day. So the orange band is much wider than the yellow one because people need to eat a lot more grains than fats and oils.

The drawing of a person climbing stairs at the side of the new pyramid is there to remind us that physical activity is as important to healthy living as eating well. Exercise helps all of us stay healthy — it can increase bone strength, for example. Food and exercise are closely linked. Everyone needs to eat well to get the nutrients that help the body grow. Individuals who are most active need additional food so they can fuel their activity levels. That way they satisfy their body’s needs for growth and activity. The new food guide pyramid is supposed to help people remember the following key points.

  • Combine exercise with eating well. Exercise benefits every part of the body, including the mind. Experts now know that exercise fights off a range of possible health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and even depression. People need 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise everyday to stay healthy.
  • Eat a variety of foods. The different color bands in the pyramid send the message that it’s important to eat lots of different foods. Not only does eating a variety of foods provide people with a good balance of nutrients, it also keeps our taste buds entertained.
  • Eat foods in moderation. The colored bands that show each food group are wider at the bottom of the pyramid than they are at the top. That’s a reminder that some foods in each group can be eaten in large quantities but others should be limited. Foods at the bottom of each section include those with little or no solid fats and little or no added sugars or sweeteners. So, a person should eat more whole wheat bread than regular pasta, for example. Likewise, people should eat whole, fresh apples more often than apple pie and try to get most of their dairy intake from low-fat milk instead of cream cheese or other high fat dairy products.

A Reminder to Eat Right and Exercise

Why these changes? Americans are getting fatter. Kids and teens as well as adults. A lot of this is because we're becoming a nation of couch potatoes. We're spending more time in front of computer screens and TV sets than meeting up with friends and playing sports. We're sitting behind a desk or the wheel of a car instead of working at more active jobs or walking to our destinations. So, get up and get moving. Start a family exercise program and just get out there! •

Learn more about the new Food Guide Pyramid at

© 2005 Michele Batz

About the Author
Michele Batz has an extensive 25 year career in sports education. She writes her own column for a Chicagoland newspaper and for and Her book — What's Holding You Back? A Woman's Beginning Guide to Fitness is available through 05/10/05

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