Food Pyramid

Fats and Sweets


You need 3-4 servings per day.

Milk, Yogurt and Cheese Group Servings

  • 1 cup of milk or buttermilk
  • 1 cup of yogurt
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 1/3 cup dry milk
  • 1-½ ounces of natural cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, Monterey Jack)
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  •  2 ounces processed cheese (American)
  • 1 cup frozen yogurt
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 cup ice cream

What does calcium do?

  • Builds bones, length and strength.
  • Keep bones strong as we age by slowing rate of bone loss.
  • Helps your muscles contract.
  • Helps your heart beat.
  • Plays a role in nerve function.
  • Helps your blood clot.

Not enough calcium can...

  • Interfere with bone growth (bones stop growing when you are in 20's).
  • Affect bone density and bone loss.
  • Increases risk of stress fractures.
  • Result in muscle cramping.
  • Increase risk of osteoporosis.

Facts You Should Know

  • Up to age 24 women need 1200 mg of Calcium. One serving from the dairy group has about 300 mg of calcium.
  • Dairy foods also provide protein, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin D. Calcium fortified orange juice does not replace any of these nutrients, so it fits into the fruit group with an added calcium bonus.
  • Choosing low or nonfat milk foods will save calories, but provide all the other nutrients.
  • Butter, cream, cream cheese and sour cream do not fit into the milk group because they are high in fat. These foods are in the fat group.

Pump up your dairy intake

  • Add milk on cereal.
  • Add cheese on a sandwich.
  • Choose yogurt dips with vegetables.
  • Have decaf coffee au lait or latte.
  • Use shredded cheese on soup and salads.
  • Have pudding for dessert.
  • Use evaporated skim milk in coffee.
  • Make yogurt or a yogurt-fruit smoothie for breakfast.

Fats and Sweets

The top of the pyramid is the fat and sweets group. We need different amount of fats vs. sweets because they do different things for your body.

  • Fats and Sweets Servings
  • Fats Sweets
  • Salad dressings
  • Oils Soft
  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Gravy
  • Margarine
  • Cream cheese
  • Sugars
  • Soft Drinks
  • Jams
  • Candies
  • Jellies
  • Sherbet
  • Gelatin

Good sources of monounsaturated fat:

  • Olive oil
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Canola oil

These foods do contain a concentrated source of calories, but your body does not use this type of fat to make cholesterol.

How do I count my fats and sugars?

  • Fats and sugars are difficult to count since they are found throughout all of the other food groups in the pyramid. The best way to count them is to count actual fat and sugar grams. Most nutrition labels will list the actual number of grams in a serving. You must decide what your serving size is and then calculate the grams in that portion.
  • Every 15 grams of sugar is considered one sweet choice.
  • Every 5 grams of fat is considered one fat choice.
  • To count your sweets and fats, just keep a running total of the grams from the labels of the foods you eat and at the end of the day you can calculate how many sweet and fat choices you made.
  • Some foods do not come with labels, but you know they contain fat and sugar. To help you "guesstimate" the grams of fat and sugar use this formula:
    - A tablespoon of sugar is about 15 grams.
    - A teaspoon of fat is about 5 grams.

Fats and Sweets with Other Food Groups
Fats and sweets are also found throughout the other food groups in the pyramid depending on the food choices you make. For example, fried potatoes provide a vegetable, but they are also a source of fat. Cherry Pie has fruit, but it also has sugar and fat.

The Brain "Needs" Sweets and Sugars
Sweets and sugars and something that the body doesn’t need at all, but the brain does! The brain doesn’t physiologically need sugar, but it thinks it does and that’s what matters. Sugar is a carbohydrate, but it is a carbohydrate with only calories and no nutrients. It doesn’t supply vitamins or minerals to the body. Sugar is often called an "empty calorie" source. Many low-fat and fat free foods have a large portion of their calories from sugar.

The Body Needs Fats
Fat is something the body needs. Our bodies don’t’ require large amounts of fat, but we do require some. A no-fat or extremely low-fat diet can be very unhealthy for most. Athletes actually burn fat as a fuel during exercise and a very low-fat diet and harm their performance. Some sources of fat are better than others. Animal fats and a very few plant fats are saturated and your body uses saturated fat to make cholesterol. Saturated plant fats are coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. The other plant fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, which are better choices that saturated fats. Monounsaturated fat is the best option.

Decreasing Your Fat and Sugar Intake

  • Limit salad dressing to 1 or 2 tablespoons or switch to a low fat version. Choose an olive oil based dressing if available.
  • Go easy on spread, toppings, gravies, and sauces that add fat or sugar.
  • Be care about the amount of cream cheese, sour cream and butter you use. Choose a low-fat, vegetable margarine in a tub to avoid saturated fat.
  • Enjoy candy and sweetened drinks, including Gatorade, in moderation.
  • Use nuts for the crunch of salads rather than bacon or fried noodles.
  • Try peanut butter with a fruit spread rather than meat and mayonnaise.
  • Use low-fat dairy products including cheeses.
  • Replace fat-free; sugar sweetened snacks with fat free fruit and vegetable snacks.


You need 5 to 7 ounces per day.

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts Group Serving
2 ounces of meat

  • ½ cup tuna or ground beef
  • 1 small chicken leg or thigh
  • 2 slices sandwich-size meat

3 ounces meat
(cooked meat the size of a deck of cards)

  • 1 medium pork chop
  • ¼ pound hamburger patty
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 unbreaded 3-ounce fish filet

Meat Substitutes for 1 ounce of meat

  • ½ cup cooked lentils, peas, or dry beans
  • 1 egg
  •  ¼ cup egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup nuts
  • 4 ounces tofu
  • 1 ounce of hard cheese

Excellent sources of protein

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Finfish
  • Shellfish
  • Game
  • Eggs
  • Dry Beans (legumes, lentils, and peas)
  • Tofu
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter

In addition to protein, foods in this group provide:

  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, and B12)

Fat in animal-derived foods is in this group.
The meat group also indirectly provides a lot of the fat we eat. Almost all animal foods have some amount of fat and some that fat is saturated. Your body uses saturated fat to make blood cholesterol. Some kinds and cuts of meat have more saturated fats than others. The way the meat is prepared can also add more fat. Because these are animal products, this group also contains varying amounts of cholesterol.

Fats in plant-derived foods in this group.
The plant foods in this group; dry bean, peas and nuts, are also excellent sources of protein. These foods are also free of cholesterol and saturated fat.

Beans and peas are also excellent sources of carbohydrate and fiber and are virtually fat-free. Nuts and nut butters supply protein and vitamins, but they also contain fat. The fat in nuts is monounsaturated and is a healthy type of fat for your heart, but is still contain calories.

Pump up your protein intake

Animal sources of protein:

  • Hard-boiled eggs make a fast breakfast. You may eat up to 4 egg yolks per week.
  • Use egg whites on salads rather than yolks to limit egg yolks to 4 per week.
  • Deli sandwiches or subs make a great lunch.
  • Try grilled, broiled, boiled, and baked cuts of meat, poultry and fish for dinner.
  • Eight ounces of milk or yogurt also contain protein and can be counted as 1 ounce of meat.
  • One ounce of hard cheese can count as 1 ounce of meat.

Plant sources of protein:

  • Try vegetarian chili or lasagna with beans.
  • Use tofu in vegetable stir-fry.
  • Eat bean soups for lunch.
  • Mix beans with a salad.
  • Toss chopped nuts in a salad or casserole.
  • Order bean burritos or tacos.
  • Mix up a three-, four-, or five-bean salad.
  • Stuff an apple with peanut butter.
  • Try hummus as a dip for chips or veggies.

Order a veggie or bean burger.


You need 2-3 servings per day.

Fruit Group Serving

  • 1 medium fruit
  • ½ grapefruit, mango, papaya
  • ¾ cup juice
  • ½ cup berries or cut fruit
  •  ½ cup canned, frozen, or cooked fruit
  • ¼ cup dried fruit
  • Citrus fruits (Orange, grapefruit, tangerine), melons and berries provide vitamin C.
  • Your body needs vitamin C-rich foods everyday. It's best if they are spread out during the day since the body can use vitamin C very quickly.
  • Deep yellow fruits (apricots, mangos, cantaloupe, and peaches) are rich in vitamin A.
  • Fruits, especially with edible peels, provide fiber. Pectin is a fruit fiber thought to help lower blood cholesterol.
  • Fruit also provides potassium and folic acid.
  • The sweetness in fruits comes from its natural sugar called fructose. Sometimes additional sugar is added to frozen or canned fruits. This adds additional calories, but can also help preserve the fruit.
  • Most fruits are low in fat and all are cholesterol free. Avocados and olives are fruits and they contain monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fat helps lower the bad cholesterol, but not the good cholesterol.

Pump up your fruit intake

  • Fruit juice is quick and easy "on-the-run" way to get fruit in your diet.
  • Add fruits to salads and coleslaw.
  • Add grapes or tangerines to chicken salad.
  • Sprinkle dried fruit on cereal and yogurt, puddings or ice cream.
  • Try fruited breads, stuffing and muffins.
  • Ask for fruit as a side when eating out. Most restaurants have berries and bananas on hand.
  • Carry whole or dried fruits in your backpack to eat on the run.


You need 3-4 servings per day.

Vegetable Group Serving

  • ½ cup chopped raw, non-leafy vegetable
  • 1 cup of leafy, raw vegetables, (lettuce, spinach, watercress, or cabbage)
  • ½ cup cooked vegetables
  • ½ cup cooked legumes (beans, peas, or lentils)
  • 1 small baked potato (3 ounces)
  • ¾ cup vegetable juice

Vegetables come in two categories:

  • Starchy — corn, beans, potatoes, peas, acorn squash.
  • Non-starchy — most others such as tomatoes, green beans, peppers, eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, asparagus, greens, brussels sprouts, etc.
  • Starchy veggies are a good source of carbohydrate for fuel and provide some other vitamins such as vitamin C and some B.
  • Beans provide one of the best sources of fiber and can actually help lower cholesterol.
  • Non-starchy veggies provide a wide variety of vitamins. Deep yellow and dark green ones provide beta carotene. Tomatoes and peppers provide vitamin C.
  • Green leafy ones provide folic acid.
  • Because the nutrients differ so much, it's important to eat a wide variety of vegetables.
  • Lettuce doesn't provide much more than water unless it is a dark green lettuce.

Pump up your veggie intake

  • Make salads more interesting: Use a variety of greens such as arugula, bibb lettuce, chicory, kale, leaf lettuce, romaine, spinach and watercress.
  • Add veggies to lunch and snack in order to get 3-4 servings per day.
  • Use spinach, sprouts, and cucumbers on a sandwich.
  • Top pasta, rice or baked potatoes with stir-fry or steamed veggies.
  • Keep some raw veggies cut in the refrigerator for quick snacks.
  • Try tomato or V8 juice with breakfast or lunch.
  • Eat the peelings on potatoes, cucumbers, and yellow or zucchini squash for more fiber.
  • Add black or other beans, to salads.

Be adventurous: Try new veggies such as Swiss chard, kale, parsnips beets, bok choy, okra, and squashes like spaghetti squash.


You need 6-11 servings per day.

Grain Group Serving

  • 1 (6-inch) tortilla
  • ½ cup cooked rice or pasta
  • ½ cup cooked oatmeal, grits, or cream of wheat cereal
  • ½ cup cooked barley, bulgur or other cooked grains
  • 1 ounce (3/4-1 cup) ready-to-eat cereal
  • 1 slice enriched or whole-grain bread (1 ounce)
  • 1 (4-inch) diameter pancake or waffle
  • ½ hamburger roll, bagel, pita bread, or English muffin
  • 2 medium cookies
  • 3-4 small crackers
  • 3 tablespoons wheat germ

Start your meal planning with your carbohydrate food.

  • Your muscles burn foods from this group when you workout.
  • Bread group foods are usually low in fat and cholesterol.
  • Whole grain choices provide more fiber.
  • Some cereals are "enriched" and provide extra iron or calcium.
  • Watch out for "fat-free" choices from this group. They may have extra, empty calories from added sugar.

Pump up your grain intake

  • Use instant hot cereals for a quick breakfast choice.
  • Pancakes and waffles make breads at breakfast tasty.
  • Burritos, pasta, and rice bowls make breads easy at lunch.
  • Tuck a granola bar in your backpack.
  • Experiment with new grains such as buckwheat, millet, couscous, bulgur or risotto.
  • Add rolls, bread or cornbread to your dinner meal.
  • Cereal is good for quick bedtime snack.