The US department of Agriculture (USDA) pyramid food guidance is another tool that can guide us in eating and designing a healthful diet. It was created in 2005 and will continue to change as we learn more about specific nutrients and foods promoting health and preventing diseases. MyPyramid is the graphic representation for the food guide. It is personalized that people can access on the Internet to help their diets and physical activity and plan changes if needed. MyPyramid is intended to help Americans eat in moderation, eat a varietyof foods, consume the right portion of each recommended food group, personalize their eating plan, increase physical activity and set goals for improving their food choices and lifestyle.
The six food groups that are recommended in the pyramid are grains, vegetables, fruits, oils, milk and meat and beans. The grains section emphasizes that we should make half our grains whole meaning that we should make sure at least half of the grains we consume each day come from whole-grain sources.
The vegetables section emphasizes to vary the veggies we eat. Also to include more dark-green and orange vegetables and more dry beans and peas. The fruits section encourages people to eat avariety of fruits and to not consume a lot of fruit juices. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin A and C, folate, potassium, and magnesium.
The oils section encourages people to select health promoting fats including fat from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. These fats contain vitamin E and essential fatty acids. It’s important to limit fats such as butter, margarine, shortening, lard, and fat on meat.
The milk section encourages to eat low-fat and fat free products to get calcium in our bodies. Dairy foods are good sources of calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, protein, and vitamin B12 and most are fortified with vitamin D and A.
The meat and bean section which includes meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts encourages low-fat or lean meats and using cooking methods such as baking, broiling, or grilling. This group is good sources of protein, phosphorus, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, magnesium, iron, zinc, niacin, riboflavin and thiamin.
Discretionary calories are also listed on the food guide pyramid. These represent extra amount of energy a person can consume after meeting all essential needs of nutrient dense foods. The amount of these calories one can eat depends on age, gender, and physical activity level.
The pyramid also helps you decide how many servings you have eaten. For instance, an ounce serving of grains is considered 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready to go cereal, 1/2 cup of cooked rice, or pasta. One cup of vegetables is equal to 2 cups of raw leafy vegetables or 1 cup of chopped cooked vegetables. 1 ounce equivalent of meat would be 1 ounce of meat, also one egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, and 1/4 cup cooked dry beans are also 1 ounce equivalents for this group. Keep in mind that serving sizes served at restaurants have grown substantially over the past 30 years. Chocolate chip cookies are seven times larger than USDA standards, steaks are more than twice as large and a serving of cooked pasta is almost 5 times larger.
Also, versions of the USDA food guide pyramid have been developed for diverse populations. Some include Latin American Diet Pyramid, Asian Diet Pyramid and there’s also one for Singapore, Malaysia, and Native Americans. Out of these variations, the Mediterranean Diet is the most popular because the cardiovascular rates in these countries are substantially lower than rates in the US. For example, in a Mediterranean Diet, meat is eaten monthly and eggs, fish and sweets are eaten weekly making the diet low in saturated fats and refined sugars. Fat used for cooking is olive oil which makes the diet high in monounsaturated fats. Foods eaten daily are grains such as bread, pasta, couscous, fruits, beans, and other legumes, nuts, vegetables, cheese and yogurt. These choices make this diet high in fiber and rich in vitamins and minerals.
So, as you can see having the MyPyramid tool to help us eat a balanced and nutritious meal can help us lower our risks for chronic diseases as well as make us feel better overall. Using the Internet tool to track your intake of foods as well as physical activity is a good guide to show how well you are doing with your lifestyle.