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Different food pyramids around the world

A food pyramid is a form of a graphic display of the food hierarchy, visualization of the main nutritional recommendations adopted by one or another country. There are different types of food pyramids around the world.

A simplified Food Pyramid
A simplified representation of the Food Pyramid (Image credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Why food pyramids are important?

In 1992, the International Conference on Nutrition was held in Rome, following which an action plan was developed containing recommendations for the dissemination of information on good nutrition among all segments of the population, taking into account the prevailing public health problems.

The main problems are non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular pathologies, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and oncological diseases) that are directly related to malnutrition; these diseases are the main causes of disability and mortality worldwide. Prevention, namely, the popularization of modern ideas about healthy nutrition, can stop the spread of non-communicable diseases.

Around the world, the lifestyle of people, including food, is becoming more unified and similar. Dietary recommendations also become similar, in most of which it is recommended to eat more vegetables, fruits and cereals, limit fat intake and indicate the need for at least minimal physical activity. Different food pyramids are essential for a different culture.

Most countries have developed their own, national dietary guidelines, which are usually illustrated with illustrative examples of the proportions of different groups of products with similar characteristics necessary for the formation of a healthy diet. This is why food pyramids are different from one another.

The graphic format is the most universal and easy to understand the way of presenting the information. It is very important that the information is understandable even to people without special knowledge of nutrition and nutrition. The most popular form of presentation of nutritional information is the FOOD PYRAMID. But different countries and organizations have designed different food pyramids.

Food pyramid of Finland

The Finnish Food Safety Authority uses the traditional food pyramid in an up-to-date and vibrant infographic format.

Vegetable foods fill the entire lower half of this food pyramid. It gives emphasis to the need to use the maximum possible variety of fruits, vegetables, and cereal products. Next to the plant foods is a tier of nuts and dairy products, followed by a tier of fish. The penultimate tier is occupied by meat products, and at the top are sweets, salty snacks, and alcohol.

Food pyramid of Australia

The voluminous food pyramid of Australia declares the importance of plant products. At its base are fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains.

Food Pyramid of Australia
Food Pyramid of Australia (Image Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

Interestingly, lentils and beans, which we see for the second time in the group of animal proteins, are specially marked here. This emphasizes that they can act as a substitute for animal proteins separately noted the need to comply with the drinking regime.

Swiss food pyramid

The Swiss pyramid is different from most others. In it, fruits and vegetables are located at a level below cereals and cereals. On the other hand, dairy and meat products are combined into one level, for sweets, a special section is allocated above fats and oils.

The importance of the liquid is especially noted – it is at the base of the pyramid, here is a glass of plain water, and an indication that tap water in Switzerland is of drinking quality, and a cup of hot drink and a jug of herbal drink. And yet, this is the only pyramid that shows a bowl of soup. All these features make the recommended Swiss diet less caloric, with a high content of green vegetables and fiber.

The Spanish food pyramid

The Spanish food pyramid also has a separate section of water – a jug and 4 glasses, this is an indication of the minimum amount of water that can be increased if necessary. This pyramid, in fact, corresponds to one of the “reference” healthy diets – the Mediterranean. Indication of the need for physical activity is present. The importance of the use of olive oil is especially noted, it is located in the same tier as vegetables and fruits.

Food pyramid of Latvia

The specialists of the  Flemish Institute for Healthy Living developed a national guide to healthy eating, which was supplemented by a food pyramid in the shape of an inverted triangle, which clearly shows which specific foods are recommended to be consumed in large and which in smaller quantities to create a healthy diet.

At the top of the inverted pyramid is water, followed by all plant products. Following are the sources of healthy animal protein. At the bottom of the inverted pyramid are red meat and butter.

Separately, a group of products is recommended that are recommended to be excluded from the diet, or eat as little as possible, this is pizza, wine, chocolate, and bacon. However, the need for physical activity is not displayed here.

Food pyramid of Germany

The German pyramid is particularly distinguished by fierce creativity. This is one of the food pyramids made in 3D-format. Each side of the pyramid displays a separate group of products. A scale is located to the left of each of the four sides, using a color display indicating the nutritional value of the displayed products. At the base of the pyramid is a circle in which the recommended proportions of each food group are shown, with water in the center.

The Japanese food pyramid

Another inverted pyramid with recommendations for healthy eating for the Japanese (it also spins)! The importance of physical activity is emphasized here – a running person sets in motion the entire structure. Interestingly, fruits, in contrast to the recommendations of other countries, are classified as desserts; they are recommended to be consumed only occasionally. Japanese is also recommended to consume fewer dairy products than residents of other countries. The basis of the diet proposed to put rice, vegetables, and fish.

WHO CINDI food pyramid

The CINDI pyramid  (Countrywide Integrated Noncommunicative Disease Intervention program) was developed by the WHO Regional Office for Europe. It is considered one of the best food pyramids in the world. This pyramid uses a color indication, according to the principle of a traffic light.

Green color – at the base of the pyramid (cereals, fruits, and vegetables), these products should make up most of the diet.

Milk and dairy products and meat, fish and eggs are located in the middle of the pyramid and are marked in yellow, which indicates that these foods are needed in moderation for a healthy diet. The red sector is at the top of the pyramid, there are fats and sweets. A red indication and a small sector size indicate that only a very small amount of these products can be present in a healthy diet.

To illustrate dietary recommendations, not only the image of the pyramid is suitable, there are other graphic forms.

So, in the UK, Portugal, Sweden, Finland and the United States, a circle or plate shape is used.

The food pyramid of USA

The United States abandoned the previously adopted form of the food pyramid. In 2011, experts from the US Department of Agriculture recommended moving to a more understandable, in their opinion, model – a plate.

A plate divided into four sectors is designed to display products from the main groups, and a separate glass for dairy products.

It is recommended to fill one half of the plate with vegetables and fruits (a little more vegetables than fruits). The other half should be filled with cereal and protein products – with slightly more cereal and fewer protein products.

USDA food pyramid
MyPyramid, the revised USDA food pyramid (Image Credit: United States Department of Agriculture – Public Domain)

However, the plate does not display what specific types of products should we take. Additional information materials have been developed for children, adolescents, adults and the elderly, explaining in more detail to these target groups the rules for building a healthy diet.

A separately located glass for milk can be misleading, suggesting that each meal should be accompanied by a glass of milk.

The food pyramid of Harvard School of Public Health

Experts at the Harvard School of Public Health somewhat modified and improved the plate presented above, correcting its shortcomings.

The plate retained four sectors, to which clarifying information was added regarding a healthy choice of products for each food group (for example, the comment “potatoes and fries do not count” for the vegetable sector). Also, the milk container was replaced with a glass of water. Also, they added a mention of the need for physical activity.

These small changes made the graphics more reliable and more easily understood.

Food pyramid of France

French recommendations for a healthy diet highlight the need for physical activity. An indication of the recommended amount of serving is located above the steps, symbolizing the priority of products from different food groups. A separate magnifying glass displays small portions of sweets, salt, oil, and carbonated drinks, it recommends eating as little as possible.

Canadian food pyramid

The current Canadian Food Guidelines are essentially temporary. The fact is that the Canadian government is in the process of changing guidelines. It is assumed, for example, that new nutritional recommendations will reduce the proportion of dairy products and increase the proportion of plant foods as the preferred sources of protein, it is planned to emphasize the need to drink enough fluids and give recommendations on physical activity.

Food pyramid of China

In China, instead of the pyramid, they chose the image of a pagoda. They call it the food guide pagoda.

food guide pagoda
The Chinese food guide pagoda

At the base of the pagoda are all grain products, tubers, and legumes, fruits and vegetables at the next level, followed by sources of vegetable protein, slightly higher milk, soy products, and nuts, and salt and oils at the very top. The need for physical activity in the equivalent of 6,000 steps per day. It also highlights the importance of drinking water.


Of course, the recommendations of the food pyramids are not perfect. This format does not imply individualization. After all, the main thing is to maximally clearly convey the key information about healthy eating to a huge number of people.

Dietology and nutrition are constantly evolving. As a result, nutritional recommendations always change. So, before margarine and spreads belonged to a healthy alternative to butter, and today, “light butter”, like other trans fats, is recommended to be completely excluded from the diet. It was reliably proven that their use negatively affects the development of cardiovascular diseases.

It is important to understand that national recommendations on nutrition are always based on a good statistical and scientific basis. They are always based on the results of scientific research, laws, documents, which are always available for public access. So, each of the food pyramids has its own value.

>>Also read: The Food Pyramid and Healthy Eating Tips

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