It has been twelve years since the United States Department of Agriculture has updated the Food Pyramid. Most of us are familiar with the old one. That pyramid emphasized foods you should eat more of on the bottom of the pyramid with foods to be eaten in smaller amounts on the top. The New Food Pyramid is an inverse pyramid. The food groups are color-coded, with the size of the sections emphasizing the proportions of foods eaten in each group. You will also notice a figure, climbing some steps, on the side of the pyramid which symbolizes exercise as a part of the total plan.

The following are four important changes in the New Food Pyramid:

1 Have at least three ounces of your grains be whole grains. On 2,000 calorie meal plans that would amount to one-half of the grains allotted. Some examples of whole grains are millet, wheat, rye, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice. Be careful in reading the labels on bread. If the loaf of bread is truly whole wheat the first ingredient on the label should be whole wheat flour.

2 There is an emphasis on nonfat and low fat in the milk and dairy group. On 2,000 calorie meal plans, three cups of dairy is recommended. Dairy foods that are not sources of calcium are not included in this group. Some examples of these would be cream cheese, cream, and butter. One cup of yogurt equals one cup of milk. One and one-half ounces of cheese equals one cup of milk.

3 There is an emphasis on lean meats and less meat in the meat group. A 2,000 calorie plan allotment is five and one-half ounces of meat. This would be a one-quarter pound lean hamburger and one ounce of lean meat on a sandwich for the day. The old Food Pyramid allowed two to three servings in this group.

4 There is an emphasis on exercise being needed when following the new plan. The new plan suggests being physically active for at least thirty minutes, on most days of the week. Sixty minutes of exercise is suggested to prevent weight gain and sixty to ninety minutes to lose weight.

The caloric amount suggested in the individual plans, in the New Food Pyramid, would be appropriate for growing children, teenagers, or persons with high activity levels. So use the New Food Pyramid only as a guide. While it would be optimum if we could all exercise for sixty to ninety minutes a day, it is not practical to expect that everyone will. With thirty minutes of activity a day, you need to modify your caloric intake and if necessary take a vitamin supplement that contains the minimum requirements.

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