Healthy Diet Pyramid: What It Is and How to Improve It?

Have you heard of a healthy diet pyramid? Many different organizations have introduced their version of the healthy diet pyramid. However, all healthy diet pyramids are pretty much the same with slight variations from country to country. But, basically, the healthy diet pyramid would have:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Protein (meat or alternatives such as eggs and milk), and
  • Fats (saturated and non-saturated)

You may be surprised to learn that there are actually differences between healthy diet pyramids of the different countries in the world. This is because countries have different diets, foods, meals, etc. However, the main differences lie in terms of the meaning of “healthy foods”.

Within the United States, consumers tend to purchase fewer fruits and vegetables, particularly in the South. These observations are consistent with a wide range of other reports showing an association between consumer taste preferences for healthy foods and food purchasing decisions. However, these associations are not evident in the UK.

USDA Healthy Diet Pyramid

Below is a picture of the healthy diet food pyramid for Americans provided by US Department of Agriculture. Other countries also have their own versions of healthy diet pyramid that is similar to this one below.

In the past, the healthy diet pyramid did not use to come with recommended daily servings. Nowadays, each health organization has included the daily recommended servings for each food group.

Also, it is beneficial to keep the various foods in your diet in the proper proportions, as it helps you to be healthy.

While the USDA has not commissioned any of its food pyramid materials since 2009, the USDA Department of Agriculture is publicly critiquing the eating habits of Americans.

In one document, the USDA cites one-third of Americans as part of a “low-food consumption category,” and a year later, the USDA updated that to say two-thirds of American adults are in that category. The USDA also has cited obesity, diabetes, and diabetes incidence as problems to be addressed in the future.

New Healthy Diet Pyramid

There is no debate that if you want to live longer, then you need to eat healthy, exercise and lead a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy food is important but do you know what you need to eat to be healthy?

Do you know what you need to eat to take care of your body? There are a variety of foods that are rich in nutrients and a variety of food to stay away from.

First, let’s talk about what you should eat each and every day. If you are physically active, then make sure you are getting enough proteins and fats to help keep you in great form. However, getting too much of certain nutrients can do more harm than good.

In the past, people relied on the government and commercials to tell them what they should eat, but now there are more resources available so you can do your own research to find out what is best to eat for you.

You can read lots of books and research papers by various organizations and believe what makes sense to you. Do not follow any advice blindly.

The book called Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating is a revolutionary book that will revive your understanding of what healthy food is.

Aimed at nothing less than totally restructuring the diets of Americans, Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy may well accomplish its goal. Moreover, there is an updated 2017 edition of this book that includes new facts and recommendations about healthy diet choices.

How to Change Healthy Diet Pyramid

Dr. Walter C. Willett totally dismantles one of the largest icons in health today: the USDA Food Pyramid that we all learn in elementary school.

He blames many of the pyramid’s recommendations – 6 to 11 servings of carbohydrates, all fats used sparingly – for much of the current causes of obesity.

At first, this may read differently than any diet book, but Willett also makes a crucial, rarely mentioned point about this icon:

The thing to keep in mind about the USDA Pyramid is that it comes from the Department of Agriculture, the agency responsible for promoting American agriculture, not from the agencies established to monitor and protect our health.

It’s no wonder that dairy products and American-grown grains such as wheat and corn figure so prominently in the USDA’s recommendations.

The USDA Pyramid does not come from a public health perspective. To put it plainly, the only people protected by the USDA Pyramid are the producers of these foodstuffs, whose profit margins justify taking all risks.

When working on the new generation of healthy diet pyramids, the modern experts advocate the best healthy lifestyle practices.

Healthy Eating Pyramid by Dr. Willett

Willett’s own simple pyramid has several benefits over the traditional format. His information is up-to-date, and you won’t find recommendations that come from special-interest groups. His ideas are nothing radical:

  • if we eat more vegetables and complex carbohydrates (no, potatoes are not complex),
  • emphasize healthy fats, and
  • enjoy small amounts of a tremendous variety of food, that will help us be healthier.

Fruits and vegetables provide essential nutrients for the development of the body and for the function of the immune system. Vegetables contain so many vital nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, and water-soluble minerals and trace minerals such as copper, iron, zinc, and selenium: all of them help improve human health.

Fruits and vegetables can also help reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Plant-based foods contribute to strong bones, reduce inflammation, and help prevent a variety of illnesses.

Plant-based diets can dramatically reduce emissions, water consumption, deforestation, and even improve land conservation in some cases.

Many experts examined the ethical implication of promoting vegetarian diets in the U.S. They often note that there is some evidence that promoting vegetarian diets can be effective in helping people transition towards more environmentally friendly lifestyles.

What Is A Healthy Diet According To The Food Pyramid?

The food pyramid serves as a visual guide to help people understand how to eat a balanced and healthy diet.

Here’s a breakdown of what constitutes a healthy diet according to the food pyramid:

  1. Grains:
    Grains form the base of the food pyramid, indicating that they should make up the largest portion of your diet. These include foods like bread, rice, pasta, and cereal. Opt for whole grains whenever possible, as they provide more fiber, vitamins, and minerals compared to refined grains.
  2. Vegetables:
    The next tier of the pyramid is dedicated to vegetables, emphasizing their importance in a healthy diet. Aim to include a variety of colorful vegetables in your meals, such as leafy greens, peppers, carrots, and broccoli. Vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, all of which are essential for overall health and well-being.
  3. Fruits:
    Fruits occupy a section next to vegetables, highlighting their significance in a balanced diet. Enjoy a diverse range of fruits, both fresh and dried, to benefit from their vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and natural sugars. Incorporating fruits into your diet can help satisfy cravings for sweets while providing essential nutrients.
  4. Protein:
    The protein group includes foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. Protein is crucial for building and repairing tissues, maintaining muscle mass, and supporting various bodily functions. Choose lean sources of protein and incorporate plant-based options to diversify your protein intake and reduce saturated fat consumption.
  5. Dairy (or Alternatives):
    Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, are included in this section for their calcium and vitamin D content, which are essential for bone health. However, if you’re lactose intolerant or follow a vegan diet, there are plenty of dairy alternatives available, such as fortified plant-based milk and yogurt.
  6. Fats and Oils:
    At the top of the pyramid are fats and oils, which should be consumed sparingly. While fats are essential for various bodily functions, it’s important to choose healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil, while limiting saturated and trans fats found in processed and fried foods.

In summary, a healthy diet according to the food pyramid emphasizes a balance of nutrient-rich foods from all food groups, with an emphasis on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein, while limiting added sugars, sodium, and unhealthy fats. Following these guidelines can help promote overall health, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Is the Food Pyramid Actually That Healthy?

The food pyramid has been a longstanding tool used to educate individuals about healthy eating habits and balanced nutrition. However, its effectiveness and suitability have been subject to debate and criticism over the years.

Pros and Cons of Food Pyramid

Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons associated with the food pyramid:


  1. Visual Representation: The food pyramid provides a simple and visually appealing way to understand the different food groups and their relative proportions in a healthy diet. This visual aid can help individuals make informed choices about their food intake.
  2. Emphasis on Variety: By dividing foods into distinct groups, the food pyramid encourages a diverse and balanced diet. It emphasizes the importance of consuming a variety of foods from different food groups to ensure adequate intake of essential nutrients.
  3. Educational Tool: The food pyramid serves as an educational tool for promoting healthy eating habits and nutrition literacy. It can be used in schools, healthcare settings, and public health campaigns to teach individuals about the basics of nutrition and dietary guidelines.


  1. Simplistic Approach: Critics argue that the food pyramid oversimplifies nutrition recommendations and fails to account for individual dietary needs, preferences, and cultural differences. It may not provide sufficient guidance for addressing specific health conditions or dietary restrictions.
  2. Focus on Quantity over Quality: Some versions of the food pyramid prioritize the quantity of servings from each food group rather than the quality of food choices. This can lead to overconsumption of processed foods high in refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and unhealthy fats.
  3. Lack of Adaptability: The food pyramid has been criticized for its static and one-size-fits-all approach, which may not accommodate evolving scientific research or dietary trends. As our understanding of nutrition evolves, dietary recommendations may need to be updated to reflect current evidence.
  4. Influence of Industry: There have been concerns about the influence of food industry lobbying on the development and promotion of the food pyramid. Critics argue that commercial interests may have skewed dietary recommendations in favor of certain food products or industries.

Overall, while the food pyramid has been a valuable tool for promoting general awareness of healthy eating habits, it’s important to recognize its limitations and consider other resources and approaches for personalized nutrition guidance. Individualized dietary recommendations, based on factors such as age, gender, activity level, and health status, may provide more tailored and effective guidance for optimizing health and well-being.

What Are The Healthiest Foods In The Food Pyramid?

In the food pyramid, the healthiest foods are typically those that are nutrient-dense, meaning they provide a high amount of essential nutrients relative to their calorie content. What are the healthiest foods in the food pyramid? Here are some examples of the healthiest foods from each food group in the food pyramid.

Eat More:

  1. Vegetables:
    • Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard
    • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
    • Colorful vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, and tomatoes
    • Root vegetables including sweet potatoes, beets, and carrots
  2. Fruits:
    • Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries
    • Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons
    • Apples, bananas, and pears
    • Tropical fruits such as mangoes, papayas, and pineapples
  3. Whole Grains:
    • Quinoa
    • Brown rice
    • Whole wheat pasta
    • Oats
    • Barley
    • Whole grain bread
  4. Lean Protein:
    • Skinless poultry like chicken and turkey
    • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout, and sardines
    • Legumes including beans, lentils, and chickpeas
    • Tofu and tempeh
    • Eggs
  5. Dairy (or Alternatives):
    • Low-fat or non-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese
    • Fortified plant-based milk alternatives such as almond milk, soy milk, or oat milk
  6. Healthy Fats:
    • Avocados
    • Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds
    • Olive oil
    • Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel

Eat Less:

  1. Refined Grains:
    • White bread
    • White rice
    • Pastries
    • Sugary cereals
    • White pasta
  2. Added Sugars:
    • Soda and sugary drinks
    • Candy and sweets
    • Processed snacks like cookies and cakes
    • Sweetened breakfast cereals
    • Sugary sauces and dressings
  3. Unhealthy Fats:
    • Trans fats found in fried foods, baked goods, and processed snacks
    • Saturated fats found in fatty cuts of meat, full-fat dairy products, and palm oil
    • Processed meats like bacon, sausage, and hot dogs
  4. Highly Processed Foods:
    • Fast food
    • Packaged snacks
    • Frozen meals
    • Instant noodles
    • Convenience foods with long ingredient lists and added preservatives

By focusing on consuming more whole, minimally processed foods from the base of the food pyramid and reducing intake of refined, processed, and high-calorie foods from the top of the pyramid, you can optimize your diet for better health and well-being.