It’s not always easy to track how well your diet is measuring up to the U.S Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid. However, with these new guidelines, the Department of Agriculture aims to make the pyramid easy to understand and ensure you’re getting enough of every food group.


What’s new for the food pyramid and how can it help you optimize your health?


Daily Amounts

The new food pyramid allows for daily amounts that you can add to your daily meals. The food pyramid uses stripes that allow you to clearly see how each category fits into your daily diet. Let’s take a look at how the food pyramid breaks down these categories.


Grains (Orange). 6 ounces of grains (which is equal to about 6 servings) should be consumed per day and at least half of these should be whole grains. Whole grains mean minimally processed grains, such as quinoa, whole wheat, oats, and brown rice.


Vegetables (Green). At least 2.5 cups of a variety of vegetables should be consumed daily.


Fruits (Red). The food pyramid recommends about 2 cups—this doesn’t include fruit juices or other fruit products, just fruit. Remember that juice is mainly the sugar that has been squeezed or processed out of the fruit, so you’re missing out on the fiber that goes with it!


Oils (Yellow). There’s no recommended serving amount for oils and fats, but the food pyramid does recommend that fat come from healthy sources such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils such as olive or avocado oil. Avoid saturated and trans fats as well as too much sugar and salt.


Milk (Blue). 3 cups a day are recommended.


Meat and Beans (Purple). Choose lean proteins including fish and beans, and remember the food pyramid cautions against frying. 5.5 ounces is the recommended amount per day.


Proper Serving Sizes

Many people tend to have misconceptions about what the correct serving size is when it comes to food. Properly understanding the serving amounts that the food pyramid outlines is crucial to having proper nutrition as well as maintaining a healthy weight. So let’s take a closer look at these serving amounts:


One ounce of grains is about half a cup of cooked rice or one slice of bread.


A serving of vegetables is about half a cup of cut vegetables or a full cup of dark green leafy vegetables (the best kind!). A serving of fruit is half a cup of cut fruit or a piece of fruit such as an orange or apple. A dried fruit serving would be about a quarter cup.


One ounce of protein includes: a quarter cup of cooked beans, an egg, or an ounce of meat. How much is an ounce? As a general rule, three ounces of meat is equivalent to a deck of cards, or, the palm of your hand. So an ounce would be a third of that. That’s a small serving!


A serving of oil ranges from one teaspoon to two tablespoons, depending on the kind you’re using!


Remember, They’re Guidelines

While the food pyramid does an excellent job of ensuring that all the food categories are clearly outlined and easy to understand, it doesn’t take into account those who have special diets, such as people with celiac disease or lactose intolerance. People who suffer from allergies to gluten can usually still eat other grains such as rice, quinoa, and buckwheat, and people with dairy intolerance can replace regular yogurt with soy or coconut yogurt or non-dairy milks like almond milk. Talk more with your doctor or registered dietitian about how you can be sure to incorporate all the nutrients you need into your diet.


By following the guidelines of the food pyramid according to their serving sizes, you can be sure to stay healthy and fit for life! Don’t overlook the exercise component—the food pyramid also recommends that you exercise for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week. Children need 60 minutes. So get out there, eat well, and start moving!