The USDA Food Guide Pyramid was introduced in 1992 to help promote healthy nutrition. Its intent was to help consumers choose the proper foods for maintaining a healthy diet by providing a visual image of dietary concepts. The pyramid aimed to promote a diet that incorporated adequate amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber while eliminating excessive amounts of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, added sugars, and calories. The pyramid highlights many different types of foods in order to illustrate that a diversity of foods should be consumed from within various food groups.

However, the Food Guide Pyramid came under attack because of its emphasis on carbohydrates, whereas current trends focus on a diet that includes more fat and fewer carbohydrates. You don't need laser eye surgery to see that there are many issues with the food guide pyramid approach. Furthermore, the Food Guide Pyramid became a subject of consternation for many people because of the growing number of people diagnosed with diabetes and obesity, possibly because of a high carbohydrate and fat intake. As a result, the USDA released a revised version of the Food Pyramid called My Pyramid.

Many alternative pyramids have been developed, designed for particular populations, each taking into consideration cultural and/or nutritional eating habits:

  • The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid --Emphasizes foods that are low in calories but can be consumed in large amounts (such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, poultry, fish, and whole grains).

  • The Asian Diet Pyramid --Emphasizes grains such as rice and noodles and contains limited dairy products.

  • The Latin Diet Pyramid --Emphasizes maize (corn) and potatoes and includes daily meal options (including fish, shellfish, plant oils, dairy products, and poultry) and weekly meal options (including red meat, sweets, and eggs).

  • The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid --Emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, and legumes and uses olive oil in the place of other fats and oils.

  • The Vegetarian Diet Pyramid --Emphasizes grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds and includes egg whites, soy milk, dairy products, and plant oils in moderation.