Contrary to what you might think, there is no single chart known as the “food pyramid.” Instead, over the years different groups have developed their own pyramids largely independent of one another. These infographics represent different approaches to making healthy food choices based on the unique needs and nutritional research of the era they were created in.
The Original Food Pyramid
The first food pyramid was created by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare in 1972. The country was experiencing rising food prices, and the government introduced the pyramid as a way to help citizens make healthy food choices that were affordable as well. The organization chose a pyramid shape to emphasize that some foods should be considered staples (grains, dairy, and starchy vegetables), while those near the top of the pyramid should be viewed as supplemental (fruits, vegetables, meat, and eggs).
The American Food Pyramid
The food pyramid was introduced in the United States in 1992 by the United States Department of Agriculture. Like its Swedish predecessor, the USDA pyramid placed foods that were considered most important near the bottom and placed less important foods near the top. However, unlike the original, this new pyramid did not take food prices into consideration—placement options were based strictly on the nutritional value of certain food groups.
In 2005, the food pyramid was updated with each food group occupying a sliver of the shape from top to bottom. Additionally, they added a person climbing a staircase on the side of the pyramid to indicate the importance of physical activity for overall health.
The World Health Organization Food Pyramid
In 2002, the World Health Organization published its own version of the food pyramid with the help of the Food and Agriculture Organization. Unlike the American and Swedish versions, this pyramid was divided by nutrients instead of food groups. Proteins, fats, unrefined carbohydrates, and sugar are all represented on the WHO chart. Additionally, this one was originally developed as a written report, but the pyramid was introduced to make the information easier to understand and more accessible.