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Archive for Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Revamped food pyramid addresses exercise

April 20, 2005

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— The new food pyramid unveiled Tuesday is still a pyramid, but this one has rainbow colors and a stylized stair-stepper bounding up one side.

"MyPyramid," a new U.S. Department of Agriculture depiction meant to help Americans live fitter, healthier lives through diet and exercise, replaces the strictly dietary pyramid that the USDA had used since 1992.

The new version promotes guidelines announced in January, which emphasize eating fruits and vegetables, going easy on meat and fats, limiting sodium consumption to about one teaspoon a day and exercising at least 30 minutes daily to keep from gaining weight.

The guidelines, which are updated every five years, are the basis of U.S. nutrition programs, including food stamps and school lunches.

On the new pyramid, each band of color stands for a food group, and its thickness shows the proportion each group should be in the diet. Orange is for grains; green for vegetables; red, fruits; blue, milk products; purple, meat and beans; and yellow, oils.

The new design also guides people to the USDA's comprehensive health Web site, www.mypyramid.gov, which features 12 pyramids tailored to various nutrition needs. That's an important update of the one-size-fits-all suggestions of the 1992 pyramid, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said.

The new site is interactive, with dietary recommendations based on age, gender and level of physical activity. Consumers can keep online eating diaries through the site, which will measure how their eating habits match up with the federal guidelines.

Johanns said the 1992 pyramid, which included suggested servings for each of its five food groups but didn't lead people beyond that information, was a mixed blessing. It contained more information about foods and serving recommendations than the new one does, but proved to be confusing about how big portions were, and its guidelines often weren't followed.

Eighty percent of Americans recognize the old pyramid, Johanns noted, but 65 percent of Americans are overweight. That pyramid "has become quite familiar, but few Americans follow the recommendations," he said.

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