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The Food Guide Pyramid

The Food Guide Pyramid is one way for people to understand how to eat healthy. A rainbow of colored, vertical stripes represents the five food groups plus fats and oils. Here's what the colors stand for:

  • Orange: grains
  • Green: vegetables
  • Red: fruits
  • Yellow: fats and oils
  • Blue: milk and dairy products
  • Purple: meat, beans, fish and nuts

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed the pyramid in 2005 because they wanted to do a better job of telling Americans how to be healthy. The agency later released a special version for kids. Notice the girl climbing the staircase up the side of the pyramid? That's a way of showing kids how important it is to exercise and be active every day. In other words, play a lot! The steps are also a way of saying that you can make changes little by little to be healthier. One step at a time, get it?

The Pyramid Speaks

Let's look at some of the other messages this new symbol is trying to send:

Eat a variety of foods. A balanced diet is one that includes all the food groups. In other words, have foods from every color, every day.

Eat less of some foods and more of others. You can see that the bands for meat and protein (purple) and oils (yellow) are skinnier than the others. That's because you need less of those kinds of foods than you do of fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy foods.

You also can see the bands start out wider and get thinner as they approach the top. That's designed to show you that not all foods are created equal, even within a healthy food group like fruit. For instance, apple pie would be in that thin part of the fruit band because it has a lot of added sugar and fat. A whole apple would be down in the wide part because you can eat more of those within a healthy diet.

Make it personal. Through the USDA's MyPyramid website, people can get personalized recommendations about the mix of foods they need to eat and how much they should be eating. There is a kids' version of the website available too.

How Much Do I Need to Eat?

Everyone wants to know how much they should eat to stay healthy. It's a tricky question, though. It depends on your age, whether you're a girl or a boy and how active you are. Kids who are more active burn more calories, so they need more calories. But we can give you some estimates for how much you need of each food group.


Grains are measured out in ounce equivalents, which are just another way of showing a serving size. Here are ounce equivalents for common grain foods. An ounce equivalent equals:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • ½ cup of cooked cereal, like oatmeal
  • ½ cup of rice or pasta
  • 1 cup of cold cereal
  • 4- to 8-year-olds need 4–5 ounce equivalents each day.
  • 9- to 13-year-old girls need 5 ounce equivalents each day.
  • 9- to 13-year-old boys need 6 ounce equivalents each day.

And one last thing about grains: Try make at least half of your grain servings whole grains, such as 100% whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal.


Of course, you need your vegetables, especially those dark green and orange ones. But how much is enough? Vegetable servings are measured in cups.

  • 4- to 8-year-olds need 1½ cups of veggies each day.
  • 9- to 13-year-old girls need 2 cups of veggies each day.
  • 9- to 13-year-old boys need 2½ cups of veggies each day.


Sweet, juicy fruit is definitely part of a healthy diet. Here's how much you need:

  • 4- to 8-year-olds need 1–1½ cups of fruit each day.
  • 9- to 13-year-olds need 1½ cups of fruit each day.

Milk and Other Calcium-Rich Foods

Calcium builds strong bones to last a lifetime, so you need these foods in your diet.

  • 4- to 8-year-olds need 2 cups of milk (or another calcium-rich food) each day.
  • 9- to 13-year-olds need 3 cups of milk (or another calcium-rich food) each day.

If you want something other than milk, you can substitute yogurt, cheese, or calcium-fortified orange juice — just to name a few.

Meats, Beans, Fish, and Nuts

These foods contain iron and lots of other important nutrients. Like grains, these foods are measured in ounce equivalents. An ounce equivalent of this group would be:

  • 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish
  • ¼ cup cooked dry beans
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • ½ ounce (about a small handful) of nuts or seeds
  • 4- to 8-year-olds need 3–4 ounce equivalents each day.
  • 9- to 13-year-olds need 5 ounce equivalents each day.

We know that's a lot to swallow. The good news is that your mom, dad, and the other grown-ups in your life will help you eat what you need to stay healthy. There's more good news — you don't have to become a perfect eater overnight. Just remember those stairs climbing up the side of the new pyramid and take it one step at a time.

Related stories:

latest videos


Yummiest Food Group?

  • The milk group cuz it includes ice cream!
  • I love my fruits and veggies.
  • Pasta from the grains group - yum yum!
  • Meat - nothing beats a good burger.

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Dear Dish-It in the forums

Dear Dish-it, i always wanted to be in a band but my parents are saying you should forget about that, you should get a real future. I have fought my case by they just get it.  Please help me Bye
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Kirsteeeeen posted in Friends:
Maybe he likes you, as a friend or as more.
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Kirsteeeeen posted in Friends:
Friends grow apart as we grow up and change at different rates. It's fine to stop being friends, but it doesn't have to be in a mean way. The best thing to do is talk to her (nicely). You don't have to tell her she's being childish or you feel as if you've matured more. That would be terrible. Talk about things you guys like to do in common or make plans to try new things together. Or don't mention it at all, but don't just begin ignoring her. Eventually the friendship will fade the less time you spend together. 
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Amalegend20 posted in Friends:
You should be nice to her. If you have to break the news gently don't make her feel bad just talk to her about and see what she says  
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hugebear posted in Friends:
My bff and I were best friends but weve grown apart im getting older and she still wants to do kid stuff I have new friends now I feel like im being mean to her but like doesn't she get the memo I feel both guilty and mad:} Gosh.... put the shoe on  the other foot and see how would you feel if your bff done this on you. You has been bffs for the long time [Im guessing] and your maturing faster than her.  I agrees you are being mean to her if you doesnt discuss how your feeling with her and ignoring / avoiding her or whatever your doing.    She has been the good friend to you and she deserves to understand if you is growing up faster than her.  I really feels sad for how she could be feeling right now. She didnt do anything wrong.  You changed. Not her. Please be nice to your friend/ex friend and let her down gently [if you really has to] ^^ Me opinion  
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