Healthy Food Pyramid Chart

Updated April 17, 2017

A common eating plan is the food pyramid, named so because the foods at the top should be eaten sparingly, whereas those at the bottom should be eaten more often. There are several charts to choose from, such as the Mayo Clinic and USDA pyramids. These eating plans have the same food groupings, with some variation, and similar food serving recommendations. The Mayo Clinic has for example a vegetarian and Mediterranean food pyramid. Alcohol is not listed on these charts, but each plan advises to always drink in moderation.


Oils such as butter and margarine should be used sparingly, if used at all. All healthy eating pyramids recommend getting your fats from fish, nuts, and mono-saturated fats such as olive, canola and avocado oils. The Mayo Clinic recommends limiting fats to three to five servings daily. A serving of fat, for example, is a tablespoon of oil or about 3 slices (28.4gr) of avocado.


The dairy group includes milk, yoghurt, cheese, and milk-based deserts such as ice cream and puddings. Opt for low-fat or non-fat versions of dairy. A general rule about choosing milk-based items is to include foods which retain their calcium (e.g., cheese and not butter); although calcium-enriched soy milk and soy milk products are other alternatives. The Harvard clinic suggests limiting this group to one to two servings a day while the USDA suggests using three servings a day. A serving size includes a cup of low-fat milk or an ounce of cheese.


Choose lean cuts of meat, fish and chicken, as well as beans and legumes, for protein. Since most proteins come with additional components---fat, carbohydrates and other nutrients---it is important to choose quality sources, such as those with a small amount of fat. Fish and beans contain beneficial oils and nutrients, such as omega fatty acids in fish and fibre in beans. The USDA recommends consuming at least 85.1gr and up to 156gr of this group. The Mayo clinic recommends 50 to 175 grams a day. Consider buying a scale to measure your protein intake.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables provide vital fibre, nutrients, vitamins and minerals and are a major source of antioxidants, which help rid the body of toxic waste through our organs. Aim to have two to three servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables daily. Easy-to-find fruits and vegetables include oranges, apples, bananas, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, red peppers, spinach, cabbage, carrots and corn. The Mayo clinic advises limitless consumption of the foods in this group and says most food choices should be from these foods.


Whole grains are the best source of carbohydrates for the body because they take more time to digest and provide lasting fuel to sustain the body; in short, they keep hunger at bay longer. Try to stay away from refined grains such as white bread. Good sources of whole grains include oats, whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, whole grain cereal (such as bran) and whole grain pasta. The recommended daily requirement is three to six servings per day. A serving is 1 slice of bread or a half-cup of uncooked oats.

About Portions and Servings

A portion, the amount of food on your plate, is not the same as a serving. A serving is the recommended amount of food that should be measured when you take account of that food. For example, a serving of a whole grain is a slice of bread. However, a portion of bread in a sandwich is usually two slices. In this case, count each slice as a serving---therefore, you would have eaten two servings of grains at this meal.

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About the Author

Adekemi Sijuwade-Ukadike has been writing online since 1996, covering general news, entertainment, lifestyle, beauty, fashion, health and fitness. Sijuwade-Ukadike has worked for CBS, Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine Magazine, Newsday, the N.Y. Times, Thirteen, PBS and MSN. She graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and psychology.