Steps to a Healthier You
There have been a wide variety of resources created over the years to help American's select healthful foods in proper portion sizes. As far back as 1894 W.O. Atwater, a nutrition investigator who worked for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), published tables on food composition and dietary standards for the U.S. population. The Food Guide Pyramid that is familiar to us now was originally published in April 1992. It was redesigned, updated, and made public in January 2005, renamed MyPyramid.
Guidelines such as the Food Guide Pyramid or MyPyramid can be a very helpful educational tool, as long as one knows what the information means. Simply looking at MyPyramid does not tell a person very much about what to eat or even what not to eat. It is a colorful pictorial with a stick person running up a stairs on the side, but what do the colors mean? Why is there a stairs on the pyramid? Why are some of the colored wedges wider than others? Is MyPyramid the same for a 6 year old as a 60 year old?
USDA created an excellent web-site www.MyPyramid.gov to help explain the new design. From the start this new pyramid was advertised as "One size doesn't fit all." Calorie needs, exercise recommendations, servings sizes and number of servings will vary by age, sex, weight, and physical abilities, to name a few. Therefore, it is most beneficial to individually explore the web site for your own specific plan.
The section "MyPyramid Plan" requests age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity. Given this information a daily food pattern is provided. Total calories and numbers of servings from each food group are then designed specifically for you. Tips on increasing physical activity are shared. Print out the plan and put it in a key location, such as your refrigerator, and see how close you are to eating a balanced diet.
Printable meal tracking worksheets are available as a food journal, which is helpful in seeing clearly what and how much was consumed in a day. Don't forget to write down EVERYTHING that passed through your lips...from the handful of pretzels gobbled down on the way home from work to the half can of Pepsi that your child did not finish (but you did so it did not go to waste).
MyPyramid Tracker is available to help keep your records. An ID and password are required to keep your account confidential.
There are resources on the web-sit for children as well, including games, coloring pages, tips for families and their own MyPyramid for Kids.
MyPyramid can be a wonderful resource if the time is taken to explore the web site and individualize the meal plan. It is a nice picture on the side of a cereal box but not the best educational tool on its own. In the future we will spend time on each of the food groups. In the mean time, enjoy exploring www.MyPyramid.gov and start making steps to a healthier you!