Since 1980, the US Department of Agriculture has been publishing recommendations of how much people need to eat in order to stay healthy. These recommendations are revised every five years, and the latest set of dietary guidelines is now available in 2010. Prior to the release of latest food pyramid, called MyPyramid, in 2005, the USDA has made some radical changes in its dietary guidelines, which we have seen in the changes made to the Food Pyramid. Though most of the recommendations are made to prevent diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, some are to prevent nutritional deficiencies, but the biggest change is in promoting a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition and daily physical activity for everyone, starting from an early age.
The old food pyramid goes something like this, six to eleven servings of carbohydrates on the bottom level, then three to four servings of vegetables and two to three servings of fruits on the next level up, then two to three servings each of dairy and protein on the next level up, and the top level is sweets and fats to be eaten sparingly. This pyramid promotes a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet. There is nothing wrong with a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet, it just doesn’t suit everyone.
The new food pyramid is divided into slices going from side to side, instead of from top to bottom, with a person climbing stairs on the left side. Each slice represents a food group, grains, vegetables, fruits, oils, dairy products, and protein. The slices filling in the pyramid going from side to side represent different portion sizes and moderation, because not everyone has the same needs from each food group. Their needs depend on age, sex, and level of activity. The different colors represent variety in foods, emphasis on making at least half your grains be whole grains, different types of grains, sources of protein other than meat, color diversity in fruits and vegetables, even the different types of fat. The stair climber represents the need to be physically active on a daily basis as part of a healthy lifestyle. It also shows that changes made to lead a healthier lifestyle can be made gradually, one step at a time.
The logo underneath the pyramid is ‘steps to a healthier you.’ These steps can be learned on the USDA website, where you can learn how to make healthier eating choices, different options within each food group, how many servings, what makes a serving, healthy recipes, and even build a personalized menu and make an exercise plan. You can do all of this not just for you, but for people of all ages, children included, using the tools provided such as coloring sheets, charts, podcasts, and you can even follow them on Twitter. Check it out, they have a lot of ideas to help lead a more healthy lifestyle.