Poster, “Traditional Healthy Mediterranean Diet Pyramid,” 1994

This poster depicts recommendations for a healthy diet based on traditional foods associated with certain Mediterranean cultures. The “Traditional Healthy Mediterranean Diet Pyramid” was published in 1994, in the midst of national debates about how much and which types of food might best improve overall health and nutrition in America. While the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had been offering dietary guidance since 1894, the actual graphic of a pyramid illustrating the recommended varieties of foods and their proportions in a healthy diet was not released until 1992. Coming just two years later and published by the World Health Organization in collaboration with the esteemed Center for Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was seen as a viable alternative to the USDA’s guidelines.
The creators of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid based their recommendations on the food traditions of Crete, certain areas of Greece, and southern Italy in part because those regions had very low rates of chronic diseases and long life expectancy. They also correlated the food consumption patterns from those areas (using data available from 1960), with data on nutrition revealed by new research and clinical trials. The resulting pyramid shows a broad base of breads, pasta, rice, couscous, polenta, bulgur, and other grains; fruits, vegetables, beans, other legumes, and nuts, along with smaller amounts of olive oil, cheese, and yogurt for daily consumption; and fish, poultry, eggs, and sweets recommended only a few times per week. Red meat sits at the top of the pyramid with the note, “A few times per month (or somewhat more often in very small amounts.”
Unlike any other food pyramid, the Mediterranean Diet included wine as part of a healthy diet. The poster shows a glass of red wine with the note “Wine in Moderation,” which was defined as wine usually consumed with meals, “about one to two glasses per day for men and one glass per day for women.” The notes included the caveat “from a contemporary health perspective, wine should be considered optional and avoided when consumption would put the individual or others at risk. That this recommendation came from medical experts at the prestigious Harvard School of Public Health made it especially significant. While California’s Wine Institute had long advocated wine in moderation as part of a healthy diet, the publication of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was a major boon for American wine producers. John A. De Luca, the President and CEO of the wine Institute from 1975 to 2003, and his wife Josephine, donated this poster to the museum.
Currently not on view
date made
Physical Description
foamboard (overall material)
overall: 35 in x 23 3/8 in; 88.9 cm x 59.3725 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of John A. and Josephine De Luca
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Work and Industry: Food Technology
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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