Follow the Healthy Weight Pyramid

Use the pyramid as a cheat sheet for your general eating guidelines.

Let the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid be your guide to making smart eating choices. It's pretty simple to use. The goal is to choose most of your food from the groups at the base of the pyramid and less from the top — and to move more.

Sweets

This group includes candies, cakes, cookies, pies, doughnuts and other desserts, as well as table sugar. With sweets, keep it small; most are high in calories and fat without any nutrients.

The pyramid recommends limiting sweets to 75 calories a day. This isn't much. So consider thinking of your sweet calories over the course of a week. If you give in to the brownie on Monday, hold off on any more sweets until the weekend — or even longer.

Fats

Your body needs small amounts of certain types of fats to function well, but saturated fats and trans fats increase your risk of heart disease. Focus on good fats, such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, nut butters and more.

Protein/Dairy

The best choices are low in fat and calories, such as fish, skinless white-meat poultry, fat-free dairy foods, egg whites and legumes (lentils, beans and peas) — which also happen to be good sources of fiber.

Carbohydrates

Most foods in this group are grains or made from grains. Whole grains are best; they're higher in fiber and other nutrients. Some examples include whole-grain cereal, whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal and brown rice. Look for the term "whole" as one of the first ingredients on the label.

Vegetables

They're rich in nutrients and fiber, and most are low in calories and fat. Focus on fresh vegetables; frozen or canned without added fat or salt are also OK. And try for more dark green, red and orange varieties. Note that starchy, higher calorie veggies such as corn and potatoes count as carbohydrates when following the pyramid.

Fruits

Almost all fruits fit into a healthy diet. But whole fresh, frozen and canned fruits without added sugar are the best choices. They're filling and packed with nutrients and fiber. Limit fruit juices and dried fruits; they have more calories and are less filling.

Find your daily calorie goal

The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid can help you learn to manage your calories and still feel full.

The chart below shows average calorie levels needed for healthy weight loss, based on sex and current weight. You can adjust this goal as you go along. For example, you might consider adding more calories if you are very active and you are losing more than a pound or two a week.

Weight Calorie goals
Pounds Women Men
250 or less 1,200 1,400
251-300 1,400 1,600
301 or more 1,600 1,800

Know your serving goals

With your daily calorie goal in hand, find the number of servings from each food group you should eat each day to meet your goal. You can eat as many vegetables and fruits as you like — they're low in calories and packed with nutrition.

Food group Daily caloric goals

1,200 1,400 1,600 1,800 2,000
Vegetables 4 or more 4 or more 5 or more 5 or more 5 or more
Fruits 3 or more 4 or more 5 or more 5 or more 5 or more
Carbohydrates 4 5 6 7 8
Protein/Dairy 3 4 5 6 7
Fats 3 3 3 4 5

Fitness

As you can see, The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid is not just about food. At the center of the pyramid is a circle that recognizes the important role physical activity plays in weight loss and health. The pyramid recommends 30 to 60 minutes of moderately vigorous physical activity on most days of the week.

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