Climbing to the Top of the Food Pyramid

Confused by the government's new food guidelines? Three experts help you learn just what you need to know

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD

They've tossed it on its side and added a rainbow of colors. But that's just the beginning of the changes for the U.S. government's new Food Pyramid.

But if you're like many of us, you may be wondering, "What was wrong with the old pyramid?" And is everything they told us before no longer true?

The good news is that experts say the new guidelines themselves are quite similar to the old, with the graphic changes in the pyramid simply being more representational of what those guidelines are.

"There was nothing wrong with the old pyramid, except that it left too much open for interpretation; the new pyramid is more specific and more reflective of what the guidelines actually say," says nutritionist Cathy Nonas, MS, RD, director of diabetes and obesity programs at North General Hospital in Harlem, N.Y.

The Rainbow of Colors

These specifics include brightly colored vertical stripes, each representing one of six food groups: grains (orange -- and the widest stripe), vegetables (green), fruits (red), oils (yellow -- and the thinnest stripe), milk -- including most foods made from milk (blue), and meat & beans (purple).

The stripes are also engineered to be wider at the bottom and narrower at the top, ostensibly to drive home the idea that not all foods within that group are of the same value.