If your diet needs tweaking or you need to lose weight, you might want to try MyPyramid.gov, an updated version of the Food Guide Pyramid accessible via the Internet. Though the new pyramid graphic is entirely useless (it takes full page to explain the meaning of each color and symbol in the text from which I teach), the new, customized approach makes it a very useful tool to assess, track and improve your diet.
Most of us suffer from diets that lack balance — that is, we eat too many meat/beans, grains and sometimes milk but neglect fruit and/or vegetables. For those of you trying to lose weight, it usually means you are consuming foods containing more calories, fewer vitamins and minerals and more sodium.
Taking a peak at your dietary needs, and then assessing your dietary habits are the best places to begin to make changes that will improve your health (and encourage weight loss, if necessary).
On MyPyramid, that means you want to start with MyPyramid Plan (located on the bottom right of this picture, on the http://www.mypyramid.gov home web page. If you click that link and enter your age, gender, weight, height and level of activity from the pull down menu, the program will generate a pyramid showing your dietary requirements (see screen grab, and no, those are not my real stats). If your activity level is 30 minutes or below, repeat MyPyramid Plan pretending that you engage in activity on the next level so you can see something that might inspire you to get up off that thing you’re sitting on: activity lends an extra 200 calories or more per day to your menu.
If you are overweight, MyPyramid Plan will ask if you would like a plan that will lead to gradual weight loss (or you can choose not to do that).
On the pyramid diagram you will see a “Tips” section where you can find out more information about each food category. You can also use the tag on the left that says “Inside the Pyramid,” which will tell you what kinds of foods fall into each category and in what amounts. Please note (with disdain, I know) that foods like solid fats (butter), cream cheese, and jelly fall under “discretionary calories” and are considered extras. because they do not contribute much nutritionally.
The next step is to print a tracking form (there’s a pdf located on this screen that will print your results) OR you can just record what you eat for a day (but 3 days is best) and see how you measure up using MyPyramid Tracker. You can record up to a year’s worth of your meals, and the tracker provides a full analysis of the nutrient content, and balance of those meals for you. The only downside: you’re limited to their database. More on this next time.