Family Nutrition Guide
This guide will help you make healthful food choices for yourself and family members over two years old

The Dietary Guidelines

The following guidelines can help you make healthful food choices. They are appropriate for all family members two and older who are in good health.

  1. Eat a variety of foods. No single food supplies all the nutrients in the amounts you need.
    • Each day eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups: vegetables; fruits; breads, cereals, rice and pasta; milk, yogurt, and cheese; meats, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs and nuts.
    • It is best to get your vitamins and minerals from food. If you take nutrient supplements, look for multiple vitamin and mineral supplements at or below the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), since these generally are safe to take. Follow your doctor's advice about amounts and types of supplements needed.

  2. Maintain healthy weight. If you need to lose weight:
    • Increase physical activity.
    • Eat less fat and fatty foods.
    • Eat less sugar and sweets.
    • Limit or omit alcohol.

    If you are within normal weight range:
    • Eat and exercise appropriately to maintain your weight.

    If you are 20 percent or more underweight:
    • Increase caloric intake and revise exercise habits to reach normal weight.

  3. Choose a diet low in fats, saturated fat and cholesterol. Many nutrition authorities feel a diet low in fats, saturated fat and cholesterol reduces the risk of heart disease, obesity and some forms of cancer. Fat should NOT be limited for children younger than two years.
    • Limit your intake of butter, cream, hydrogenated margarines, shortenings, coconut oil, and foods made from such products.

  4. Choose a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and grain products. These foods are generally low in fat and good sources of fiber and starch.
  5. Use sugars only in moderation. Frequent exposure to sticky, sugary foods promotes tooth decay. Sugar is low in nutrients.
    • Limit the use of sugars and foods with added sugars.
    • Select fresh fruits or fruits canned without sugar.

  6. Use salt and sodium only in moderation. Sodium is one of the factors that affects high blood pressure, especially for about 20 percent of Americans sensitive to sodium. There is no test to tell who is sensitive to sodium. Table salt contains about 40 percent sodium.
    • Don't add salt at the table and use little in cooking.
    • Check labels for amount of sodium in foods.
    • Limit salty foods ( potato chips, pretzels, salted nuts) and condiments (soy sauce, steak sauce, garlic salt), some cheeses, pickled foods and cured meat.

  7. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. Alcohol is relatively high in calories and low in nutrients.
    • If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, you should NOT drink at all. Alcohol has been linked to birth defects in infants. Others that should not drink include children, adolescents, drivers, people on certain medicines, and individuals who cannot control their drinking.
    • If you drink, do not take more than one drink if a woman or two drinks if a man, in a day. Heavy drinking causes serious problems.

Food Guide Pyramid
A Guide to Daily Food Choices

Food groups listed from top to bottom and left to right.

Fats, Oils & Sweets
Milk, Yogurt, & Cheese Group
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs,
& Nuts Group

Vegetable Group
Fruit Group
Bread, Cereal, Rice, & Pasta Group

How to make the pyramid work for you

The Food Guide Pyramid shows a range of servings for each major food group. The number of servings right for you depends on how many calories you need, which in turn depends on your age, sex, size, and how active you are. Almost everyone should have at least the lowest number of servings in the ranges.

Take a look at the table on the right. It tells you how many servings of each major food group you need for your calorie level. It also tells you the total grams of fat recommended for each calorie level. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans limit fat in their diets to 30 percent of calories. This includes the fat in the foods you choose as well as the fat used in cooking or added at the table.

Read the labels on foods to find out how many grams of fat each portion contains.

How many servings do you need each day?

teen girls,
active women,
most men
Calorie level* about
Bread group servings 6 9 11
Vegetable group
3 4 5
Fruit group servings 2 3 4
Milk group servings 2-3** 2-3** 2-3**
Meat group servings 2, for a
total of
5 ounces
2, for a
total of
6 ounces
3, for a
total of
7 ounces
Total fat (grams) 53 73 93

* These are the calorie levels if you choose low fat, lean foods from the 5 major food groups and use foods from the fats, oils, and sweets group sparingly.

** Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, teenagers, and young adults to age 24 need 3 servings.

What is a healthy weight for you?

If you are too fat or too thin, your chances of developing health problems increase. A healthy weight for adults means meeting these three conditions:

1. Your weight falls within the range for your height and age in the table.

Suggested Weights for Adults*

without shoes
Weight in pounds
without clothes*

19 to 34
35 years
and over
5'0" 97-128 108-138
5'1" 101-132 111-143
5'2" 104-137 115-148
5'3" 107-141 119-152
5'4" 111-146 122-157
5'5" 114-150 126-162
5'6" 118-155 130-167
5'7" 121-160 134-172
5'8" 125-164 138-178
5'9" 129-169 142-183
5'10" 132-174 146-188
5'11" 136-179 151-194
6'0" 140-184 155-199
6'1" 144-189 159-205
6'2" 148-195 164-210
6'3" 152-200 168-216
6'4" 156-205 173-222
6'5" 160-211 177-228
6'6" 164-216 182-234

2. Your waist measure is smaller than your hip measure. Too much fat around the waist is believed to be of greater health risk than excess fat in the hips and thighs.

3. Your doctor has advised you not to gain or lose weight because of a medical problem.

Note: Higher weight ranges for people 35 years or older are shown because research suggests that they can be a little heavier without increasing their risks of certain diseases. This does not apply, however, to people with diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and some other disorders. Check with your health care professional.

If your weight is not "healthy," set reasonable weight goals and try for long-term success through better eating and exercise habits.

Children's heights and weights should be checked periodically by a doctor. Overweight children may need special help in exercising more while eating nutritious foods with adequate but not too many calories.

Limiting fats and sugars

Remember the top of the pyramid (centerfold) says to use fats, oils and sweets sparingly. These must be eaten in limited amounts because too much fat provides excess calories and promotes obesity and elevated cholesterol levels. Excessive saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels and can lead to blockages in the arteries. Cholesterol in foods also can contribute to increased levels of blood cholesterol in some people.

Fat should NOT be limited for children under two years of age because they need it for normal growth.

Sugar provides calories, but limited nutrients. Sugar remaining on the teeth contributes to tooth decay. Sugar eaten at meals is less harmful to teeth than when eaten between meals.


Use the Food Guide Pyramid to help you eat better every day, the Dietary Guidelines way. Start with plenty of breads, cereals, rice and pasta; vegetables; and fruits. Add 2-3 servings from the milk group and 2-3 servings from the meat group. Each of these food groups provides some, but not all, of the nutrients you need. No one food group is more important than another -- for good health you need them all. Go easy on fats, oils and sweets, the foods in the small tip of the Pyramid. They provide calories and little else nutritionally.

A final recommendation

As your life situation changes, reevaluate what you and your family are eating. Have your eating habits changed? What can you do to improve? Keep this guide handy to help you plan for your nutritional needs.

Adapted from:

Daily Food Guide and Selection Tips

* The higher weights in the ranges generally apply to men, who tend to have more muscle and bone; the lower weights more often apply to women, who have less muscle and bone.

Daily Food Guide Selection Tips
Food group/
daily servings
What counts as a serving
3-5 servings
  • 1 cup raw leafy greens
  • 1/2 cup other kinds of vegetables
Different types of vegetables provide different nutrients. For variety eat:
  • dark-green leafy vegetables (spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli);
  • deep-yellow vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes);
  • starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas);
  • legumes (navy, pinto, kidney beans, chick-peas, lentils);
  • other vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green beans).
2-4 servings
  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange
  • 1/2 cup fruit, fresh, cooked, canned
  • 3/4 cup juice
Choose fresh fruits, fruit juices, and frozen, canned, or dried fruit. Pass up fruit (canned or frozen) in heavy syrups.
  • Eat whole fruits often -- they are higher in fiber than fruit juices.
  • Have citrus fruits, melons, and berries regularly. They are rich in vitamin C.
  • Count only 100 percent fruit juice as a fruit.
Breads, Cereals,
Rice and Pasta
6-11 servings
  • 1 slice bread
  • 1/2 bun, bagel
  • 1 ounce dry cereal
  • 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, pasta
To get the fiber you need, choose several servings a day of foods made from whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread and whole-grain cereals.
  • Choose most often foods that are made with little fat or sugars. These include bread, English muffins, rice and pasta.
  • Baked goods made from flour, such as cakes, cookies, croissants and pastries, count as part of this food group, but they are high in fat and sugars.
*Milk, Yogurt and
2-3 servings
  • 1 cup milk
  • 8 ounces yogurt
  • 1 1/2 ounces natural cheese
  • 2 ounces process cheese
Choose skim milk and nonfat yogurt often. They are lowest in fat.
  • 1-1/2 to 2 ounces of cheese and 8 ounces of yogurt count as a serving from this group because they supply the same amount of calcium as 1 cup of milk.
  • Cottage cheese is lower in calcium than most cheeses. One cup of cottage cheese counts as only 1/2 serving of milk.
Meat, Poultry, Fish,
Dry Beans and Peas,
Eggs, Nuts and Seeds
2-3 servings
  • Amounts to total 5-7 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish a day
  • Count 1/2 cup cooked beans, 1 egg, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter as 1 ounce of meat.
Choose lean meat, poultry without skin, fish and dry beans and peas often. They are the choices lowest in fat. Prepare meats in low-fat ways:
  • Trim away all the fat you can see.
  • Broil, roast, or boil these foods, instead of frying them.
  • Go easy on egg yolks; they are high in cholesterol.
  • Nuts and seeds are high in fat, so eat them in moderation.
* Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, teenagers, and young adults to age 24 need 3 servings from the milk, yogurt and cheese group.


Credit : COOK IT QUICK!, University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County