According to the food pyramid, at least half of all your grains should be whole grains.

What Are the Six Sections of the Food Pyramid?

by Michelle Kerns

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture updated the food guide pyramid that it originally introduced to the American public in 1992. The new food pyramid, titled MyPyramid, was designed like a spectrum to help people get a visual idea of the variety of foods they should include in their daily diets. Although the food pyramid, which consists of six sections, was officially replaced by the MyPlate icon in 2011, it still provides valuable guidance regarding healthy eating for both children and adults. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about how to incorporate the food pyramid when planning your family's meals.


Starting from the left, the first of the six sections on the food pyramid represents grains. According to the USDA, an adult following a 2,000-calorie diet should have at least six ounces of foods such as pasta, bread or cereal grains such as rice or oats each day. A one-ounce serving of grains is equivalent to 1/2 cup cooked cereal grains or pasta, one slice of bread or one cup of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal. A minimum of three ounces of these grains should be whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice or whole-grain noodles.


The second, green-colored section on the MyPyramid food guide is for vegetables. Adults should have at least 2½ cups of vegetables each day. For most vegetables, one cup of them raw, cooked or juiced counts simply as one cup, though you need two cups of raw, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach or romaine lettuce to equal one cup, says the USDA. You should aim to eat a colorful variety of vegetables daily. Try to include dried beans and legumes and vegetables colored orange or green in your meals as often as you can.


Fruits are represented by the third, red section on the food pyramid. You should try to have at least two cups of fruit daily. While fresh, frozen or canned fruit all count, it's best to choose whole, fresh fruit whenever possible. A cup of 100-percent fruit juice counts as one cup of fruit, but it's best to limit your intake of juice since, compared to fresh fruit, it has more sugar and less fiber. A ½ cup of dried fruit also counts as a one-cup serving of fruit.


The smallest of the six sections on the food pyramid is the oils section. The USDA does not use the pyramid to specify how many servings per day of fats and oils you should have; instead, you're instructed to limit your consumption of saturated fat, trans fats and all forms of solid fat, including margarine and butter. Consume primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Total daily fat intake should fall between 20 to 35 percent of daily calories. Eat fish, nuts and vegetable oils such as olive oil.


Milk represents the fifth section of the food guide pyramid. Every day, adults should have three cups of low- or non-fat milk products, such as milk, cheese or yogurt. Unlike the other sections on the pyramid, this section has different recommendations for children: Kids between two and eight years old should have only two servings of low- or non-fat milk per day. If you or your child is lactose-intolerant, you can substitute alternative calcium sources, such as calcium-fortified soy milk.

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs and Nuts

The final section of the food pyramid represents protein-rich foods. You should aim to consume 5½ ounces of food from this category daily, choosing beans, legumes, fish, nuts, seeds and lean poultry over red meat the majority of the time. When you're preparing meat, poultry or seafood, the USDA advises using a low-fat cooking method like grilling, broiling or baking.

About the Author

Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.

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