THE BALANCED DIET: THE NEW FOOD PYRAMID
Many will remember learning the Food Pyramid in our Health and Nutrition classes. The simple diagram showed what kind of food we should eat, and in what proportions, in order to help everyone make healthier food choices.
Unfortunately, the Food Pyramid didn’t seem to be working. Statistics showed a sharp increase in obesity over the last decade, prompting experts to create a nutritional guide that was better, more accurate, and easier to follow.
Now called “MyPyramid,” it features a new diet and physical activity guide. It also includes interactive Internet tools which allows people to personalize their approach. There are also other significant improvements that make MyPyramid more effective than its predecessor.
§ Before: The old Food Pyramid identified different food groups and stacked them horizontally, based on the recommended number of servings to be consumed per day. At the bottom were the grains, at 6-11 servings per day, and at the top were the fats, oils, and sweets, which should be eaten sparingly.
After: Instead of horizontal blocks, the new MyPyramid features vertical triangular sections of color. The colors represent the different food groups, proportionate to the amount you should eat of each group.
§ Before: The old Food Pyramid gave recommended “servings”. Unfortunately this vague and rather subjective instruction made it difficult to follow.
After: The new MyPyramid exchanges “servings” to typical household measures like “cups“
§ Before: The old Food Pyramid was cut-and-dried—you either followed its structure, or you didn’t.
After: By dividing the main Pyramid into smaller ones, MyPyramid allows you to personalize your approach. It becomes easier to find a plan that works for you, and easier to stick to it too.
§ Before: The old Food Pyramid was intimidating. People were cautioned to follow it exactly.
After: The new MyPyramid emphasis gradual improvement. The motto “Steps to a Healthier You” is meant to reassure everyone that our goals can be met by taking even the smallest steps.
§ Before: The old Food Pyramid did not highlight the importance of exercise.
After: The new MyPyramid makes physical activity an integral part of achieving the goal of a healthy lifestyle, as symbolized by the stylized image of a person climbing its steps
§ Before: The old Food Pyramid focused on the amount you need to get per foo group
After: The new MyPyramid also highlights the variety you should incorporate into your diet, through the six rainbow color bands (representing the five food groups and the oils, all of which are crucial for good health).
§ Before: The old Food Pyramid could have misled people into thinking it was okay to take large amounts of the food at the base, and no amounts of the food at its tip
After: The new MyPyramid has each food group shaped into triangles, narrowing at the top, reflecting the need for moderation in all food groups
§ Before: The old Food Pyramid reflected the importance of proper portions.
After: The new MyPyramid still emphasizes Proportionality. The food group bands vary in width, indicating how much food should be chosen from each food group.
In short, MyPyramid focuses on specific food groups, and what to eat from each of them. The wider base in each group stands for healthier food, which have little to no fat or added sugars. These should form the bulk of your diet. The narrow top represents foods with fats and added sugars, and should be limited. For example, in the orange band representing grains, a slice of whole grain bread would be at the bottom, while a donut would be at the top. In this way, MyPyramid pushes whole grains over refined, lean meats and low fat dairy products over higher fat animal products.
There are also 12 versions of MyPyramid, to reflect the varying dietary and exercise needs of people belonging to different age, genders, and physical activity levels.