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food pyramid

food pyramid or Food Guide Pyramid, diagram used in nutrition education that fits food groups into a triangle and notes that, for a healthful diet, those at the base should be eaten more frequently than those at the top. At the base of the pyramid are breads, cereals, rice, and pasta, with a recommendation that 6 to 11 servings be eaten daily. On the next levels up are the vegetable (3 to 5 servings) and fruit (2 to 4 servings) groups, followed by the dairy group (2 to 3 servings) and a group including meats, eggs, nuts, and dry beans (2 to 3 servings). Fats, oils and sweets are at the apex, with a recommendation that they be eaten sparingly.

The Food Guide Pyramid was adopted by the U.S. Agriculture Department in 1992 as a replacement for the "four food groups" scheme that had been used to teach children about nutrition since the 1950s. The four food groups (the milk group, the meat group, the bread and cereals group, and the vegetable and fruit group) had put a greater emphasis on the consumption of meat and dairy products. The adoption of the food pyramid design was delayed by debate between nutritionists (who felt that it was an effective teaching tool that demonstrated current thinking about the benefits of a low-fat, high–complex carbohydrate diet) and the meat and dairy industries (which felt that the positioning of their products among the foods to be consumed less frequently implied that those foods were unhealthful). It was also criticized by many nutritionist who felt it did not distinguish clearly between more healthy and less healthy choices within the food groups. When the Food Guide Pyramid was revised in 2005, vertical sections were used to represent the components of a healthy diet. The food pyramid was replaced as a government guide to proper nutrition by a platelike design known as MyPlate in 2011.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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