The journey has ended, or maybe it has only begun. On Tuesday, April 19, the USDA released the much anticipated and awaited revised Food Pyramid, newly named “My Pyramid.” Concerned about steadily expanding waistlines, the government flipped the food pyramid on its side, adding a staircase for exercise and giving consumers 12 individually-tailored models for improving their eating habits.
Inside the new My Pyramid are rainbow-colored bands representing different food groups and running vertically from the tip to the base. The old single, triangle-shaped pyramid had a horizontal presentation of food categories that many found confusing or ineffective for behavior change.
The new guide encourages Americans to customize their diet and exercise regime along 12 models geared to specific calorie needs and levels of physical activity. Exercise is key to the new system. Besides the suggested 30 minutes of daily exercise to reduce the risk of chronic disease, the government also advises even more exercise – 45 minutes 5 times a week- to prevent weight gain or maintain weight loss. Food groups are represented by six different colors: orange for grains, green for vegetables, red for fruits, yellow for oils, blue for milk products and purple for meats and beans. The bands are wider for grains, vegetables, milk products, and fruits, to express that people should eat more of them.
One big change is intended to help people control their portion sizes. The old pyramid explained its advice in “serving” sizes, but now, to make its advice more understandable, the government will switch to cups, ounces and other household measures. As the basis for revising the pyramid, the 70-page booklet, “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005” that was developed by a panel of scientists and doctors and released in January will emphasize choosing good whole-food carbohydrates over “bad” refined ones. For example, choose bread made from whole-grain flour instead of white flour.
They also recommend eating three ounces of whole-grain foods, two cups of fruit and 2- 1/2 cups of vegetables each day; and drinking three cups of fat-free or lowfat milk daily.
Now, if you were to take a red pen and make a check mark on all the changes to the new My Pyramid that are implemented in the First Place Live-It, you would see that First Place already does most of the excellent changes the USDA recently applied to their Pyramid. First Place has always taught serving sizes using standard household measurements. First Place already recommends whole grain products, lowfat milk products, and exercise has always been an important element of our program. We are elated as we evaluate the changes, and were a few years ahead of the USDA. Even though the First Place Live-It was based on the USDA Pyramid, we had already taken steps as they are doing now to help insure a plan full of nutrients.
A couple of items that First Place will need to emphasize are more vegetables and three milk servings each day. We have always said a minimum of two vegetables and more is better, but we need to each start eating five vegetables servings each day. We have the opinion to choose three milk servings each day, but now we need to make sure we have three servings daily. You may want to note that if you had two glasses of milk today, and you also had cheese or cottage cheese, even if you counted that cheese as a meat, your body actually got the benefit of three milk exchanges.
In First Place we don’t need to worry about changes, the new My Pyramid makes the First Place Live-It Plan look very good.
I received an email from a member this week saying, “I have been on the new website and they are recommending a lot fewer exchanges than First Place does for the same amount of calories.” I asked this member to send me a list of the exchanges the web site recommended and as we evaluated it together, we found it was exactly the same as First Place. They listed the exchanges and then gave 140 free calories. When we applied these free calories to one more fruit and one bread exchange the two recommendations were the same. First Place and the new My Pyramid are going to match or be very close.
There is a lot of great information and I even tracked my food on the site for a day, but I became very frustrated when I wanted to list one simple tomato and had to do a search through approximately 350 tomato choices, including five different recipes of venison and tomato, and NEVER found the plain tomato! It made filling out my CR a piece of cake (Sugar-Free Applesauce Cake, page 66, New First Place Favorites).
The site for the new pyramid is www.My Pyramid.gov .
The site for the 2005 Dietary Guidelines is www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidlines .
May God Protect,
First Place Associate Director
Kay is the associate national director of First Place and has been on the First Place staff since 1987.
Kay is a popular speaker at retreats, seminars, Conferences, FOCUS Weeks and Workshops across the country. Kay is the First Place food exchange expert and writes a monthly article in the First Place E-Newsletter on nutrition. She also was a contributing writer to the Today Is the First Day devotional book. Her delightful personality and love for people endears her to everyone she meets, and they quickly become her new best friend.
Kay and her husband, Joe, live in Roscoe, TX. They have two children and five grandchildren. Two of the young grandchildren are making a name for themselves on the golf circuit. Two of the young grandchildren are making a name for themselves on the golf circuit, and the three oldest grandsons are all involved in numerous sporting events, which Kay and Joe attend as often as possible.