Facts About the Food Pyramid

Food pyramid

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Receiving the proper nutrition information plays a key role in helping you make healthy food choices. That's why the government adopted the Food Pyramid -- a visual nutrition guide originally created at Tufts University. In an effort to improve this guide, the U.S. Department of Agriculture created a revised version and then finally retired the Food Pyramid in 2011 in favor of a completely redesigned guide with a different shape called MyPlate.

The Original Food Pyramid

The USDA adopted the original Food Pyramid -- named after its shape -- in 1992. The USDA intended the shape to help you remember which foods to eat more of and which ones to scale back on. The pyramid showed different food groups and recommended servings size. The bottom of the pyramid -- the largest section -- showed foods with the most recommended servings, which were breads, pasta and rice. The smallest section of the pyramid, listed foods to eat sparingly, such as fats, oils and sweets.

Food Pyramid Receives a Facelift

Nutrition experts felt the original pyramid lacked crucial nutrition information. For example, it failed to differentiate between whole grains and refined grains or between saturated and unsaturated fats. The USDA replaced the original Food Pyramid in 2005 to address these issues. Called MyPyramid, this more detailed guide provided added information for each food group. Subsequently, the Harvard School of Public Health created an alternate pyramid with additional considerations for factors such as exercise, weight control, multivitamins and alcohol consumption.

Out With the Old

After careful consideration, the USDA ditched the Food Pyramid and released a redesigned version called MyPlate in 2011. This modern version, in the shape of a plate, is meant to grab your attention and remind you to eat healthy, according to the USDA. The plate features four sections, one for fruit, vegetables, protein and grains, with a separate section next to the plate for dairy. Each section has a different color, to provide a better visual cue. For example, the vegetable section is green.

The Healthy Eating Plate

While MyPlate is meant to serve as a reminder to choose nutritious foods, it's not meant to provide specific messages, according to the USDA. Faculty members from the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health created an alternate version of MyPlate called the Healthy Eating Plate, which provides additional information and specific guidance. For example, it shows a recommendation to limit red meat, use healthy oils such as canola and to stay active.