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Wise Choices Food Pyramid

wise choices food pyramid - Educational materials

What if we did compare apples & oranges?

Educational materials for teaching and learning about the Wise Choices Pyramid
The information on this page is for nutrition educators and teachers and regular people too! It shows activities to do to learn how to use the Wise Choices pyramid with consumers and in schools. It contains information about the scientific basis of the Wise Choices Pyramid.

Messages of the Wise Choices Pyramid

Use these basic messages to underlie your understanding of and teaching of the Wise Choices Pyramid:

Nutrient density is the amount of healthy nutrients compared to the number of calories in the food. For example, a slice of whole grain bread and a small cupcake provide the same number of calories, but the bread provides more nutrition calorie-for-calorie and thus has better nutrient density – it’s a wiser choice.

Functional Foods are foods or parts of food – like nutrients – that go beyond basic nutrition and provide specific health benefits. More and more is being learned about these health-promoting properties of some foods and food components.

Grains:  Choose whole grains, which are located on the left side of the Pyramid, for their disease-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Fruits and Vegetables: Fill up on a colorful variety of fresh, frozen, canned and/or dried fruits and vegetables. ANY one of these fruits or vegetables on the Wise Choices Food Pyramid is a good choice, but ones toward the left side are even better options.

Protein: Get more fiber, fewer calories, and less saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet by choosing more beans, lentils, soy products, fish, nuts and seeds.  Avoid salty, processed meats, such as hot dogs, bacon and cold cuts.

Dairy: Cut calories and add calcium with non-fat or reduced-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Extras: Choose “extras” that add extra flavor and interest to your diet without adding extra sugar, fat and calories. The group of Extras on the left side shows healthier alternatives to the foods in the group on the right. For example, choose 100% juice instead of soda pop, or choose pretzels in place of potato chips.

Portions: Eating moderately by choosing proper portion sizes is still important. Eating from the left side of the Wise Choices Food Pyramid does not give us license to eat too much!

Practical advice:  Making Wise Choices of your own

We all make food choices for many, various reasons such as cost, availability, convenience, cultural or social reasons, our health needs, or because the food makes us feel good. What are some of the influences on your diet? Are there foods on the Wise Choices Pyramid that, while they are excellent choices, might not fit into your diet?  Why or why not?

What are two foods you could add to your diet that would be healthy choices? What do you need to do to make those foods work in your diet and lifestyle? Learn to cook them? Substitute them for other foods you currently eat? Encourage your family to try them?

Why is it important to eat foods from all the food groups? Because they each bring nutrients that your body requires! Can eating more of one food group compensate for not eating foods from another group? Not usually. Cutting out food groups or certain food types – like many fad diets do – is a quick way to nutrient deficiency and an imbalanced diet.


Example dinner menu:
Grain: spaghetti (with meat sauce)
Protein: ground beef meat sauce (with the spaghetti)
Vegetable: green lettuce salad with Thousand Island dressing
Fruit: Side dish of apple sauce
Dairy: Glass of milk

Adding Wise Choices to example menu:
Grain: use whole grain spaghetti (with meat sauce)
Protein: Ground turkey meat sauce (with the spaghetti)
Vegetable: green lettuce salad with carrots and spinach and Italian dressing
Fruit: Side dish of apple sauce with frozen berries mixed in
Dairy: Glass of milk, mix with ½ soy milk

Work with a registered dietitian or a family consumer science extenstion agent at your Extension office for more ideas. Visit for extensive information and help with personal dietary planning.


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