The food pyramid was designed to offer an easy-to-understand look at healthy eating, but for the average person it’s too simplistic, vague, and sometimes way off. ┬áHere’s how food pyramids work and how you can actually use them in your day-to-day eating.

Versions of the Food Guide Pyramid have been around since the late 70s, and an official U.S. Department of Agriculture version rose to common knowledge in 1992, but it’s long been the focus of some controversy, with several updates and alternatives offered over the last decade. Here’s a quick look at the history of the food pyramid and its goals, followed by some tips for how you can actually use it for better eating.

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