Written by nutritionist Caroline Hunt, the first USDA food guide focused on the nutritional needs of children. Foods were classified into five groups: cereals, fruits and vegetables, meat and milk, fats and fatty foods, and sugar and sugary foods.
The USDA published "How to Select Foods" a year later in 1917. This pamphlet focuses on nutrition for families, and includes sample meals and cost estimates. Read the full-text of this pamphlet at Archive.org
The Basic 7 food guide offers the first suggested daily servings for each food group, but didn't define a serving size. With seven food groups, this guide was considered too complex. Fun fact: butter is a food group.
Because of the complexity of the Basic 7 food guide, nutrition recommendations were simplified to create the Basic 4 guidelines, which would last for twenty years. The focus of this guide was still on nutrition adequacy; soon it would be changed to make sure people weren't eating too much.
The Hassle-Free Daily Food Guide was developed after the 1977 dietary guidelines were released. It is similar to the Basic Four, but adds a new category "Fats, Sweets, & Alcohol." This category was to be consumed in moderation.
The Food Wheel was a collaboration between the American Red Cross and the USDA. It features five food groups, and the daily amounts of food based on three calorie levels. This food guide was the basis for the well-known Food Pyramid.
The Food Pyramid graphically represents a food group's serving size based on its size in proportion to the pyramid. This is a total diet approach, emphasizing both nutrition adequacy and moderation. This food guide was critiqued on its emphasis on bread products, and grouping of both good and bad fats in the "use sparingly" peak.
MyPlate was based on the food patterns in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The icon is visually different than the former food guides, and represents a practical take on healthy eating rather than specific messages.