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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Menu modeling with MyPyramid food patterns: Incremental dietary changes lead to dramatic improvements in diet quality of menus

item Hornick, Betsy
item Krester, Alison
item Nicklas, Theresa

Submitted to: Journal Of The American Dietetic Association
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/30/2008
Publication Date: 12/20/2008
Citation: Hornick, B.A., Krester, A.J., Nicklas, T.A. 2008. Menu modeling with MyPyramid food patterns: Incremental dietary changes lead to dramatic improvements in diet quality of menus. Journal Of The American Dietetic Association. 108(12):2077-2083.

Interpretive Summary: Incremental changes in food choices have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of the diet while helping consumers better meet recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid. Menu modeling can be a useful tool for assessing the adequacy and quality of current dietary intakes and the possible influence of gradual changes in food selection. Food and nutrition professionals can apply the concept of menu modeling in a counseling setting to show clients how to modify their diets to meet dietary goals with small, achievable changes that progressively improve their diet in a way that fits their lifestyle. Presenting a series of personalized transitional menus can help bring MyPyramid's guidance to life and demonstrate that a more healthful eating style is attainable with everyday foods. Gradual changes are more likely to sustain improved overall healthful eating habits and patterns.

Technical Abstract: The MyPyramid food guidance system provides recommended food intake patterns for members of each sex at various age and activity levels. These food intake patterns are based on recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Actual consumption patterns of American adults compared to MyPyramid recommendations indicate that substantial changes are needed to meet the goals of MyPyramid. One method for encouraging dietary change, known as the small steps approach, involves small, gradual changes to meet a desired endpoint. Menu modeling was used to evaluate the effects of gradual dietary changes on diet quality. Seven days of baseline menus were developed to model the intake of adult women aged 31 to 50 years. Incremental changes were made to each baseline menu to create a series of three transitional menus and a final target menu. Target menus met MyPyramid energy and nutrient intake goals. Diet quality was measured for each baseline, transitional, and target menu using the Healthy Eating Index-2005. The average Healthy Eating Index-2005 score for baseline menus compared to target menus increased by more than 50 points, with incremental increases observed for each transitional menu. This analysis demonstrates that small, practical changes in food choices that bring consumers closer to meeting My-Pyramid recommendations result in gradual and dramatic improvements in diet quality. Food and nutrition professionals can use menu modeling to provide concrete examples and specific guidance for making progressive changes in food selections to meet current dietary recommendations.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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