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New Food Pyramid Stresses Individuality

by Jai A. Dennison


The MyPyramid symbol represents the recommended proportion of foods from each food group and focuses on the importance of making smart food choices every day. Physical activity is a new element in the symbol. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an US Food Pyramid symbolup dated nutritional guidance system on Wednesday [April 2005], called "MyPyramid," including a new symbol that integrates the concept of regular exercise with eating well.


Replacing the Food Guide Pyramid introduced in 1992, the new system emphasizes the need for taking an individualized approach to achieving a healthy diet and lifestyle.


"Many Americans can dramatically improve their overall health by making modest improvements to their diets and by incorporating regular physical activity into their daily lives," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.


MyPyramid incorporates recommendations from the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans released by USDA and HHS (US Department of Health and Human Services) in January.


Eat Right and Exercise
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide authoritative advice on dietary habits for individuals over the age of two with the aim of promoting health and reducing the risk of major chronic diseases.


The MyPyramid symbol represents the recommended proportion of foods from each food group and focuses on the importance of making smart food choices every day. Physical activity is a new element in the symbol.


What MyPyramid Illustration Conveys:

Personalization. The MyPyramid Web site offers a personalized recommendation of the kinds and amounts of food to eat each day.


Gradual improvement. The slogan, "Steps to a Healthier You," suggests that individuals can benefit from taking small steps to improve their diet and lifestyle each day.


Physical activity. The steps and the person depicted climbing them serve as a reminder of the importance of daily physical activity.


Variety. The six color bands represent the five food groups of MyPyramid, plus oils. Foods from all groups are needed each day for good health.


Moderation. The narrowing of each food group from bottom to top suggests which food groups to emphasize. The wider base stands for foods with little or no solid fats, added sugars, or caloric sweeteners. These should be selected more often to get the most nutrition from calories consumed.


Proportionality. The different widths of the food group bands suggest how much food a person should choose from each group. The widths are just a general guide -- not exact proportions.


Interactive Personalization Tools
The ChooseMyPlate website contains interactive tools that let individuals key in their age, gender and physical-activity level so that they can get a personalized recommendation on their daily calorie level, based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  

It also allows individuals to find general food guidance and suggestions for making smart choices from each food group.


Other MyPyramid Website Features:

MyPyramid Plan. By entering age, gender and activity level, users can get a quick estimate of what and how much food to eat from the different food groups.


MyPyramid Tracker. Compares one day's food consumption and activity undertaken with current nutritional guidance to provide hte user with detailed information on diet quality and physical activity status. Relevant nutrition and physical activity messages are tailored to the individual's desire to maintain current weight or to lose weight.


Inside MyPyramid. This feature provides in-depth information for every food group, including recommended daily amounts in commonly used measures, like cups and ounces, with examples and everyday tips. This section also includes recommendations for choosing healthy oils, discretionary calories and physical activity.


Start Today. Tips and resources that include downloadable suggestions on all the food groups and physical activity, along with a worksheet to track food intake.


Children's Version in Development
Future enhancements to MyPyramid.gov will include features that make it possible for consumers to make specific food choices by group, look at everyday portions of favorite foods and adjust their choices to meet their daily needs.


A child-friendly version of MyPyramid for teachers and children is being developed. This version of MyPyramid is intended to reach children 6 to 11 years old with targeted messages about the importance of making smart eating and physical activity choices.


Copyright 2005 Jai A. Dennison is a health journalist for Daily News Central , an online publication that delivers breaking news and reliable health information to consumers, healthcare providers and industry professionals.