New Food Pyramid is a Climb Worth Making
By: Darla VanHeerde, M.D.
In April, the USDA introduced its newest version of the well-known food pyramid the first update in 13 years. While the new pyramid looks different, the new food guidelines are very similar to the old. There are, however, a few important changes.
The first has to do with everyone's favorite four-letter word: Exercise. The new pyramid has a human figure running up the side over a set of steps to signify the importance of movement and exercise in our daily routines. This doesn't mean we all have to become Olympic athletes. It does mean we should strive for the equivalent of 10,000 steps each day. The goal is to make movement part of our regular routine, not something we reserve for an hour or two each week at the gym.
Ten thousand steps may sound like a lot, but they can be accomplished in a number of ways that are fairly easy to do. You can take the dog for a walk after dinner, park in the back row when at the grocery store, take a ten-minute walk during your lunch break, and choose the stairs over the elevator at work. A pedometer can be clipped onto your belt to help you keep track of your steps.
If the new pyramid motivates you to start a more formal exercise regime you probably don't have to consult with your doctor unless you are a male over 40 or a female over 50 and you plan institute vigorous physical activity into your routine.
The second new message of the pyramid is that there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to diet. Age, gender and activity level all influence intake requirements, and based on those factors, we should take an individual look at what and how much we are eating.
The USDA has a tool to help determine your individual food pyramid, as well as track your eating habits. It can be accessed at www.pyramid.gov , where you will be prompted to enter your age, weight, gender, and activity level.
The third main change of the new pyramid has to do with portion sizes. The old pyramid may have advised us to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, but it really didn't tell us what constituted a portion. A lot of Americans have become accustomed to super-sized portions especially when it comes to grains such as breads and pastas. Many people might be surprised to learn that a serving of grains is comprised of just one ounce. A sandwich made with two slices of whole wheat bread constitutes two full servings of grains. The normal scoop of pasta consumed by most people during lunch or dinner is equal to one to one-and-a-half ounces, which is two or three full servings according to the food pyramid.
Dr. VanHeerde is a board certified family practice physician at Raiter Clinic.