By Gerald F. Combs, Jr.
While an abundance of nutrition information is available online and from the popular press, it's important to base diet and exercise choices on science-based information provided by authoritative sources. A one-size-fits-all approach does not answer the question many consumers have been asking, which is: "How will this work for me?"
Addressing these and other concerns, USDA Secretary Mike Johanns announced last week a new approach to the implementation of science-based healthy eating information. This is the personalization of the USDA food guidance system, MyPyramid, now found on the World Wide Web at MyPyramid.gov (http://mypryamid.gov/).
MyPyramid is the new symbol and interactive food guidance system that incorporates recommendations from the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which was released in January. These science-based guidelines emphasize whole grains; deep green and orange vegetables; fresh, frozen or canned fruits; low-fat or fat-free milk products; lean meats and poultry, and more fish, beans, nuts and seeds; and the moderate use of oils.
MyPyramid builds on and replaces the familiar USDA Food Guide Pyramid introduced in 1992. The new pyramid depicts a person climbing steps to undercore the importance of exercise. It also underscores a new slogan, "Steps to a Healthier You," which encourages gradual improvements daily.
While MyPyramid communicates the need to stay physically active and to balance what we eat accordingly-it also goes several steps beyond. MyPyramid.gov contains interactive activities that make it easy for individuals to key in their age, gender and physical activity level so that they can get a more personalized recommendation on their daily calorie level. It also provides useful tips on how to implement a personal plan for healthy eating.
All of this is captured in the new MyPyramid logo. The logo depicts the major food groups as different colored bands (orange for grains; green for vegetables, red for fruits, blue for milk products; purple for the meat and bean group; yellow for oils) running up the front of the pyramid. The different sizes of the bands show the proportion that should be eaten from each food group. Again, the steps running up the side of the pyramid remind us to stay physically active each day.
But MyPyramid is more than a new logo. It is a portal for information that you can use. The website helps you to develop a personal healthy eating plan (MyPyramid Plan)-an estimate of what and how much food you should eat from the different food groups by entering your age, gender, and activity level. And it provides an online dietary and physical assessment tool (MyPyramid Tracker) which provides more detailed feedback on your diet quality and physical activity status based on the data that you key in. It also provides the full report of the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, tips for implementing individual MyPyramid plans, and an animated tour of the MyPyramid concept.
If you haven't done so already - the day it was announced the website had some 50 million hits - I'd invite you to visit MyPyramid.gov and check this out yourself. I did and found its message clear and useful. When you do, remember that it is based on science most of which has been conducted by USDA's six human nutrition research centers, including ours in Grand Forks.