| ||Food Guide Pyramid: New and Improved
| ||...Because One Size Does NOT Fit All
|Author:||Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
|Date:||5/18/2005 12:00:00 AM
| ||Sometime during your life, you’ve probably seen that colorful triangle containing a variety of foods and how many servings you need to eat each day. Perhaps you learned about it back in health class, saw it displayed on the cafeteria wall, or glanced at it on the back of your cereal box one morning. That familiar food pyramid (introduced in 1992) was supposed to be our nutrition survival guide in a one-size-fits-all world. But lets face it—one size does not fit all. Individuals have very specific nutritional needs, calorie goals, and food preferences. Therefore, the old guide was seldom used and rarely followed.
But instead of ditching the whole pyramid concept, a new and improved pyramid has entered the scene. Unveiled on April 19th by the United States Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, this new guide is now internet-savvy, providing personalized attention at www.MyPyramid.gov. Taking the best of the old (the pyramid shape) while adding some exciting new dimensions and features, "My Pyramid: Steps to a Healthier You" is a perfect complement to your already individualized SparkPeople plan…and here are the highlights:
- In the new graphic, the overall shape is a pyramid—but so is each food group. This is to clarify that there are healthier choices amongst the foods in each group. The wider base of each group stands for foods with little fat and sugar. The tip of the pyramid represents foods with more added fats and sugar. At SparkPeople, we have always encouraged lean meats, low fat dairy products, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- The same 5 food groups are still represented, each with a unique color. The width of each food group is also proportional. Although the widths are a general rule, not exact proportions, it does help you visualize how much food you need from each group. It is easy to see that grains (orange) and vegetables (green) should make up the majority of your diet, while oil and fats (yellow) should be eaten in moderation. Fruits (red), milk (blue), and meats and beans (purple) fall in the middle.
- At SparkPeople, we’ve always placed great importance on physical activity to improve your fitness level and overall health. It's refreshing to see this represented by a person climbing steps up the side of "My Pyramid."
- The new pyramid is all about personalization for each individual. By entering your age, sex, and activity level, the system selects one of twelve caloric intake levels that best suits you. These range from 1,000 calories per day to 3,200 calories per day. However, be aware that these ranges are geared for weight maintenance, not weight loss. Generally, subtracting a few hundred calories from this number will allow you to achieve a gradual weight loss—and that is just what your SparkDiet does for you.
- At SparkPeople, we recommend using standard portion sizes, and measuring and weighing foods for accurate nutrient intake. You will be happy to learn that the nonspecific "servings" that where used on the old pyramid have now been replaced with specific portions listed in cups, teaspoons, and ounces, making it much more user-friendly in kitchens across the country.
- "My Pyramid" does take into account the fact that change is not easy. Helpful tips and suggestions are found throughout. SparkPeople members can enjoy sharing these suggestions with others on the Message Boards as we support, encourage, and motivate each other in our quests for better health. Let’s keep each other posted on what we find at www.mypyramid.gov and use it to help everyone improve their eating habits, fitness levels, and overall health!
For more information about these changes, read the "2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans".