How Nutrition Took Shape in America

How Nutrition Took Shape in America

July 14, 2022

What foods should you eat each day? Your answer likely comes to mind in the shape of a pyramid. Most Americans are familiar with the colorful, multi-level food pyramid designed to show the nutritional categories of foods we should eat daily.

But we didn’t always have that guide. Before World War II, Americans ate what they ate, without much nutritional guidance from the government. In 1942, when food was rationed during the war, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published nutritional guideless to help people understand how to eat a healthy diet during rationing.

Since then, dietary guidelines have evolved based on new research about how good nutrition helps Americans stay healthy. Check out these fun food pyramid facts:

  • The first nutritional guidance chart from the USDA, created in 1943, was actually a wheel. It included seven food groups with vegetables being broken down into colors including the “green and yellow vegetable” group and the “oranges, tomatoes, and grapefruit” group.
  • By 1955, the number of food groups had been narrowed down to four, combining fruits and vegetables into one. The other three? Milk, meat, bread and cereal.
  • The government launched the first food pyramid in 1992. This revolutionary design grouped foods into six categories (fruits and vegetables were broken into their own categories) and included daily recommend servings for each food group. The pyramid design helped represent the volume of each food to eat each day, with 6-11 daily servings of grains at the bottom and fats and sweets to be eaten “sparingly” at the top.
  • The 2005 version of the food pyramid did away with serving numbers and represented the categories as ratios to each other. Importantly, this version included a visual of exercise, reinforcing that a healthy diet needs to be paired with exercise.
  • The USDA did away with the pyramid design in 2011 and introduced MyPlate, a simplified approach using a plate to visually represent the food groups people should eat at each meal.

Fruits, Grains, Vegetables, Dairy, Protein

Just like the food pyramid, our understanding of healthy eating has evolved over time. While dietary needs differ based on age, sex, health, and level of physical activity, some current guidance is the same for almost everyone:

  • Eat whole foods – versus processed foods – because they’re best for your body  
  • Make fruits and vegetables a focus of your daily intake
  • Choose whole grains over processed grains
  • Eat a variety of proteins including lean meats like chicken and fish and plant-based proteins including beans, legumes, and nuts
  • Limit sweetened drinks like soda and juice
  • Enjoy sweets and treats occasionally

Following MyPlate and getting enough exercise will help your body feel its best and can help prevent chronic illness, too. Mom’s MealsÒ professional chefs and dietitians create nutritionally-tailored meals that support better health for anyone who wants the convenience of home delivered meals without shopping and cooking. Choose from nine different health condition menus delivered right to your home.


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