This information has been reviewed and adapted for use in South Carolina by J. G. Hunter, HGIC Information Specialist, and K. L. Cason, Professor, State EFNEP Coordinator, Clemson University. (New 09/05.)

HGIC 4010

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In April 2005 the new food guide pyramid, MyPyramid, was released. After 12 years, it was time for USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) to update the pyramid to reflect the government’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which include the importance of balancing what we eat with our physical activity.

USDA MyPyramid graphic

MyPyramid symbolizes a simple, personalized approach to making healthy food choices and being physically active every day.

Anatomy of MyPyramid

Activity: The person climbing the steps represents YOU being active every day. In response to Americans’ sedentary lifestyles, or "couch potato syndrome," the new pyramid addresses the growing problems with lack of fitness, obesity, and poor nutrition.

Exercise helps to lower your risks of diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer. Therefore, get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. This is above and beyond normal daily activity, unless your job includes lots of vigorous physical activity.

To manage your weight and prevent unhealthy weight gain, you need up to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days of the week. If you need to lose weight or keep the weight off, then you should get 90 minutes of modest exercise every day.

Moderation: The new pyramid is tipped on its side. Now all the food group bands run from the top of the pyramid to the base. The wider base stands for foods with little or no solid fats or added sugars, which should be selected more often. The narrower top represents foods with more sugars and solid fats. The more active you are, the more of these foods you can fit into your daily food choices.

For example, plain broccoli is found at the base of the vegetable group. Moving up the pyramid is broccoli with lemon juice and olive oil, and above that is broccoli with cheese sauce. At the very tip is deep fried, breaded broccoli with cheese sauce.

Proportionality: The different widths of the bands show how much food you should eat from each food group. The widths are just a general guide, not exact proportions. How much YOU need depends on your calorie needs, which are determined by your age, gender and activity level.

Variety: MyPyramid includes six color bands representing the five food groups and oils. These bands show that foods from all groups are needed each day for good health. Oils are included for the first time, because research shows that vegetables oils and oils in some fish contain fatty acids that are important for health.

Mypyramid graphic with foods in each category.

Food Categories & Portion Sizes
Make half your
grains whole
Vary your veggies
Focus on fruits
Get your calcium-
rich foods
Meat & Beans
Go lean with protein

Eat at least 3 ounces of whole grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice, or pasta everyday.

1 oz. is about 1 slice of bread, about 1 cup of breakfast cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, cereal, or pasta.

Eat more dark-green veggies like broccoli, spinach, and other dark leafy greens.

Eat more orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes.

Eat more dry beans and peas like pinto beans, kidney beans, and lentils.

Eat a variety of fruit.

Choose fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit.

Go easy on fruit juices.

Go low-fat or fat-free when you choose milk, yogurt, and other milk products.

If you don’t or can’t consume milk, choose lactose-free products or other calcium sources such as fortified foods and beverages.

Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry.

Bake it, broil it, or grill it.

Vary your protein routine—choose more fish, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.

For a 2,000-calorie diet, you need the amounts below from each food group. To find the amounts that are right for you, go to

Eat 6 oz. every day.

Eat 2½ cups every day.

Eat 2 cups every day.

Get 3 cups every day.
For kids ages 2 to 8 it’s 2 cups.

Eat 5½ oz. every day.

Find your balance between food and physical activity

  • Be sure to stay within your daily calorie needs.
  • Be physically active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • About 60 minutes a day of physical activity may be needed to prevent weight gain.
  • For sustaining weight loss, at least 60 to 90 minutes a day of physical activity may be required.
  • Children and teenagers should be physically active for 60 minutes every day, or most days.

Know the limits on fats, sugar, & salt (sodium)

  • Make most of your fat sources from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
  • Limit solid fats like butter, margarine, shortening, and lard, as well as foods that contain these.
  • Check the Nutrition Facts label to keep saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium low.
  • Choose food and beverages low in added sugars. Added sugars contribute calories with few, if any, nutrients.

Personalized Just For You: One pyramid does not fit everyone, so 12 different ones were created. Depending on how many calories you need and how active you are, there is a pyramid for you at You can print out a personalized plan and a worksheet to track your progress, as well as choose food and activity goals for tomorrow.

MyPyramid still suggests that you eat grains, vegetables, fruits, oils, milk, meat and beans each day. How much of each that you should eat depends on your age, gender and activity level. These factors determine how many calories you need for a healthy weight. Calorie levels are included for males and females ages 2-76+, with activity levels of sedentary, moderately active and active.

For example, the guide recommends that a 30-year-old woman, who gets less than 30 minutes a day of physical activity, should eat the following daily:

  • 6 ounces of grains
  • 2½ cups of vegetables
  • 1½ cups of fruits
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 5 ounces of meat and beans

It also suggests that she consume 5 teaspoon of oils a day.

Check out the web site to learn how to plan daily meals and snacks for you and your family.

Gradual Improvement: The slogan, "Steps To A Healthier You," suggests that you can take small, gradual steps to improve your diet and lifestyle every day. Changes will not happen overnight. By making modest dietary improvements and including regular physical activity in your daily life, you can dramatically improve your overall health.


  1. USDA’s MyPyramid. Steps To A Healthier You. April 2005.
  2. Cason, Katherine. MyPyramid: Steps to a Healthier You – The New USDA Food Guide Pyramid. Nourishing News (May 2005), Clemson University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and EFNEP.

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