Just when you were getting the Nutrition Pyramid down to an exact science, the USDA goes and releases an all new nutrition and diet plan for healthy Americans. On April 19, 2005, the United States Department of Agriculture unveiled its new My Pyramid nutrition pyramid. Available at its own web site (http://www.mypyramid.gov), the new guidelines aren’t so much NEW as they are more in depth, detailed and helpful.
For starters, My Pyramid can be personalized. On the main page, you have the option of entering your age, gender and activity level. Simply click “submit” and get a recommendation that’s more specific than ‘6-11 servings of grain per day’. Instead of those vague, wide-ranging recommendations, you’ll get a pyramid that says, “6 ounces of grain products”, or 2 1/2 cups vegetables.
Even if that were the ONLY improvement on the new site, it would be tremendous. No more guessing whether you should aim for closer to six servings or closer to eleven. The nutrition calculator factors in your age, gender and activity level (above your normal daily routine) to come up with a recommended caloric intake. From there, it breaks down the calories by food group, and tells you exactly how much of each group you should eat per day for a healthy diet. It’s far easier to figure out what 2 cups of milk is than it is to figure out how much ‘3-5’ servings of dairy is!
But it doesn’t stop there. Beneath the pyramid chart with the specific serving sizes on it, you’ll find a list of links to ‘tips’ for making the healthiest choices from each food group – divided by food group.
There are some great diet tips there, along with ways to serve foods in appetizing and nutritious ways. A sampling from each category includes:
* Grain: Substitute whole grain cereal for bread crumbs in toppings.
* Vegetables: Try crunchy vegetables raw or lightly steamed.
* Fruits: Try applesauce as a fat-free substitute for oil in baking.
* Milk: Trim down from whole milk to fat-free gradually, week by week.
* Meat/Beans: Replace some of the meat in your diet with nuts.
Want to know how your actual diet stacks up against the dietary guidelines and get specific, personalized recommendations for improving it? Tucked away at the bottom of the list of links in the menu you’ll find the My Pyramid Tracker. It’s easily the handiest tool that I’ve ever seen. Enter the foods that you eat in a typical day, click Analyze, and you’ll get a detailed analysis that includes the calories, the amount of over 25 specific nutrients, the difference between your diet and an optimum diet, and specific recommendations for changes you should make to eat a healthier diet. Better yet, you can save your history day by day to keep track of your eating habits and watch the improvements. It’s the diet diary with a difference. Use it – and see yourself eating better every day.