Prepared by Beth Reames, PhD, LDN, RD Diane Linder, EdD, LDN, RD and Donna Montgomery, MS Page 1 of 4

There are six food groups in the pyramid:  breads/ cereal/ rice/ pasta; vegetables; fruits; milk/ yogurt/ cheese; meat/ poultry/ fish/ eggs/ beans/ nuts; and fats/ oils/ sweets.  Five groups are needed daily.


Click here for the printable (Word) version of the lesson

The Food Guide Pyramid


The Food Guide Pyramid is a tool designed to promote the concepts of variety, moderation and balance in the diet.  Variety means eating foods from all food groups, moderation means limiting the amount of high sugaror high fat foods, and balance means eating the number of servings recommended according to your individual calorie needs.  The Food Guide Pyramid is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is also designed to provide the recommended dietary allowances for calories, fiber and nutrients. 

There are six food groups in the pyramid:  breads, cereal, rice, pasta; vegetables; fruits; milk, yogurt, cheese; meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts; and fats, oils and sweets.  Five major groups are needed daily.  We just need a little bit of the last group to round out our meals.  Foods in the sixth group should be eaten sparingly.  No one food group is more important than another.  There are no "good" foods or "bad" foods.  However, it is important to balance the high fat or high sugar foods with low fat or low sugar foods over a period of one or two days.  Foods that have three or less grams of fat per 100 calories are considered low in fat.

What You Will Learn and How it Will be Useful to You

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

Name the five major food groups pictured in the Food Guide Pyramid.

Describe the symbols for fat and sugar and name the foods that are sources of these nutrients (including food groups in the rest of the pyramid).

List the range of servings recommended for each food group.

Understand serving sizes.

Understand that fat intake should be limited to 30% of calories.

Give suggestions for food selection and preparation methods to help moderate sugar and fat intake.

Understand that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Visit the Healthy Choice web site to learn some nutrition facts.

Group One:  Breads, Cereals, Rice and Pasta

Bread, cereal, rice and pasta are the foundation of a well-balanced diet.   Foods in this group provide key nutrients for a variety of uses: 

  • B-vitamins - help use energy from food, keep the skin healthy and help digestion and appetite 
  • Iron - builds red blood cells 
  • Protein - for growth and repair of body tissues 
  • Carbohydrate - for energy 
  • Fiber - prevents constipation 

Some foods in this group include biscuits, bread, ready-to-eat cereals, cooked cereals (oatmeal, grits and cream of wheat), cornmeal, macaroni, muffins, noodles, pancakes, rice, spaghetti, tortillas, waffles, graham crackers, saltine crackers and popcorn.

The Food Guide Pyramid recommends six to eleven servings from the bread, rice, cereal and pasta group daily.  Serving sizes for this group are:

Bread - One slice

Biscuit, roll or muffin - One small

Tortilla - One

Waffle or pancake - One

Crackers - Five small or two large

Hamburger or hot dog bun - One-half

Ready-to-eat cereal - One ounce

Cooked cereal, grits, rice, macaroni, spaghetti and noodles - One-half cup

Some of the best buys in the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group are:

Less Expensive

 More Expensive

Enriched white rice, brown rice

Enriched macaroni, noodles and spaghetti

Enriched white or whole-grain bread

Saltine crackers

Cornbread or muffins made from scratch

Cornbread, muffin or biscuit mix

Enriched flour

Instant rice, seasoned rice, wild rice

Pasta in special shapes (curls, shells)

Specialty breads

Specialty crackers


Ready-to-eat muffins, biscuits

Cake flour

Other cost-saving tips for the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group include:

Buy ready-to-eat cereals in large boxes or bags instead of single serving boxes.

Buy day-old bread and shop at bread outlets.

Use stale bread for toast, casseroles, French toast, grilled sandwiches, bread pudding and stuffing.

Compare bread prices by weight, not by size of the package. A large loaf of bread may contain a lot of air.

Buy store brands or generic bread products.  These are usually cheaper than name brands.

Make your own baking mixes for cornbread, biscuits and muffins.   These are usually cheaper than ready-made mixes.

Use foods in the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group in casseroles to stretch your food dollar.

Make sure to read the labels on these products, so you will know what you are buying.  Some terms you may find on the labels include:

Whole-grain:  These are made from whole kernels of grain.  These are a good source of fiber.  It is recommended that we eat at least three servings of whole-grain foods each day, such as whole-grain breads and cereals, brown rice and whole-grain pastas.

Enriched:  Vitamins and iron are lost when grain is milled to make white flour or meal.  Enriched flour or meal has vitamins and iron added during processing.  However, fiber lost during milling is not added back.

Fortified:  Many breakfast cereals have extra vitamins and minerals added.  These are called fortified products.  They are usually more expensive than those which have not been fortified.

Storage tips for the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group:

  • Bread stored at room temperature stays fresh longest.  Bread stored in the refrigerator gets stale faster but will not mold quickly.  You may freeze bread for up to six months.  Store rice, flour, noodles and cornmeal, etc. in tightly closed containers in a dry place. 
  • Washing rice and rinsing cooked spaghetti and noodles removes important vitamins. 

Flash Card Quiz:

1. Which food has the least calories?
One-half cup cottage cheese 
Two ounces of lean beef 
One slice bread 
Answer:  Bread  - One slice contains only 80 calories.  Both the two ounces of beef and the one-half cup of cottage cheese have 120 calories.


2.  Which food has the least calories?
Whole hamburger bun 
Three ounce hamburger patty 
Small bag potato chips 
Answer: Hamburger bun - this has 160 calories.  The hamburger patty has 185 calories, and the chips have 175 calories.


3.  Which food has the least calories?
One baked chicken leg 
One-half cup rice 
One 12 ounce can of cold drink 
Answer:  Rice - One-half cup of rice has only 80 calories.  The chicken leg contains 140 calories, and a 12 ounce can cold drink contains 150 calories.

Is bread fattening?

Many people think bread products are fattening.  This is not true, though.  It is not the bread that is fattening; it's what we put on the bread.   If you add a pat of butter and a tablespoon of grape jelly to the bread, it will have 160 calories instead of 80 calories.  If you add two tablespoons of gravy to your rice, the calories jump from 80 to 200.  Foods from the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group won't make you fat.  This important group gives us vitamins, minerals and energy.  Half of the foods in our daily diet should come from this group.  To make lower calorie choices in the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group, follow these tips:

Choose lower fat and lower sugar products.  Compare:

        One slice bread = 80 calories

        One small biscuit = 100 calories

        One doughnut = 175 calories

  • Cut down on fat in your biscuit or cornbread recipes 
  • Use thinly sliced bread 
  • Snack on unbuttered popcorn 

Choosing Cereals

Did you know that some cereals may have as much as three and one-half teaspoons of sugar in each serving?  We will look at how to choose the best cereals for you and your family.  Cereals are nutritious, tasty, convenient and low-cost.  They are easy to prepare and are packed with energy.  Cereals help build muscles and other body tissues.  They also help promote growth and good health.  The USDA Food Guide Pyramid recommends eating six to eleven servings of bread, rice, cereal and pasta each day.   Cereals made from whole grains are best.  They have more fiber.  Examples of whole-grain cereals are barley, corn, oats, rice and rye.  Insoluble fiber aids in digestion and elimination.  Soluble fiber helps to reduce cholesterol levels.   Cereals made from bran of wheat, oats, rice, corn or other grains are high in dietary fiber. 

Cereals that are cheaper are usually more nutritious.  Cereals that you cook are usually less expensive than ready-to-eat or instant cereals.  Single packages of cereal cost more than large packages.

Some cereals contain added sugar.  These cereals usually have more calories and cost more than plain cereals.  Add your own sugar to plain cereals to save money and calories.

Use the ingredient label.  Read labels to select the best cereal.   As a general rule, the shorter the list of ingredients, the more nutritious the cereal.  Look for whole grain as the first ingredient.  Choose cereals that are whole grain, enriched or restored.  Look for the terms - oats, corn, rice, barley, rye and wheat.

Web Sites to Visit:    This is a good site for rice recipes, cooking tips and nutrition information.    Click on "Wheat Foods" and then the "6 Classes of Wheat."   Also click on "Wheat Facts"  and "About Wheat Nutrition" and read the topics included.   Click on "Course 1" and go through the course.   This is a good site for recipes and nutrition information.

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