Food pyramid now an updated 'recipe'

By Shannon Jenkins

Despite all the fanfare this week, the government's new rainbow-colored food pyramid seemed to fizzle in communities south of Atlanta.

By the end of the week some people hadn't even heard of MyPyramid, which was unveiled on Tuesday as part of an overall food guidance system and replaced the Food Guide Pyramid revealed in 1992. According to www.mypyramid.gov, the system "emphasizes the need for a more individualized approach to improving diet and lifestyle."

Food groups are represented by colorful vertical wedges within the pyramid – orange for grains, green for vegetables, red for fruits, yellow for oils and fats, blue for milk products and purple for meats and beans. The wider wedges suggest larger portions of preferred foods such as grains, milk products and fruits and vegetables. The old graphic represented food groups in blocks with oils at the top and grains at the bottom. The higher up on the pyramid, the smaller the portions.

"I think the pyramid is nice but just like anything else it's going to have its limitations," said Lynn Leo, a registered licensed dietitian at Henry Medical Center.

For instance, MyPyramid suggests a 26-year-old man who gets less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day should eat 8 ounces of grains per day. Leo said nutritionists know a slice of bread is 1 ounce, but the average American may not. However, she said the new pyramid and food guidance system is doing a better job than the former system of explaining what the general public needs overall.

"It talks more about whole grains rather than lumping all the starches together," she said.

When the director of school nutrition for Henry County Schools saw the new pyramid, she thought, "What is this?"

Despite the new look, Judith Hogg said, "We're still talking about the same things – eating more grains and less fat. We're always encouraging more whole grain consumption and fruit and vegetable consumption."

"It's still a pyramid," said Jane Lofton, program director of Clayton County Public Schools nutrition department. "We will possibly see a few changes in the meal pattern, but it will not be significant."

Hogg said the pyramid will always be a training tool for those in the nutrition field.

"It's still getting across the same information," she said.

One element the old pyramid didn't suggest, however, was exercise. The new graphic includes a figure climbing to the top of the pyramid, which was meant to encourage consumers to stay active as part of a healthy lifestyle.

The dietary guidelines has also dumped the one-size-fits-all theory. In-depth information is provided at www.mypyramid.gov concerning individualized dietary plans. By entering their age, gender and activity level, Web site users can get a basic estimate of what and how much food to consume from the different food groups with the MyPyramid Plan. For a more detailed assessment, consumers can use the MyPyramid Tracker segment of the Web site.

Another version of MyPyramid is also in the works for children and teachers, which will be geared toward children ages 6 to 11.