Pyramid Tracker

When it comes to keeping track of what we eat, most of us look around like a cat with a canary stuffed in our gob (though for most of us it’s 3 scoops of Double Rainbow stuffed into a giant waffle cone — after all, it’s hot out there!). But if you’re looking to improve your diet, you need to have a peek (with no one else looking, even!) at what you’re doing day by day. (Please note: if you click on any of these pictures they will enlarge so you can see what’s what!)

I like the Pyramid Tracker (www.mypyramid.gov, then click Pyramid Tracker) for this task because it’s relatively simple, you can record your dietary analysis for up to a year, and it will analyze your diet in several ways, and because it can all be done rather quickly. My students infinitely prefer the Pyramid Tracker to analyzing their diet by hand using food labels and other sources. It’s more accurate by hand, but you’re much less likely to actually do it.

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Once you’ve entered your bio information on the front, hit the button that says Save Today’s Changes and go to the Physical Activity section. Choose the condensed version and enter any physical activities in which you’ve engaged because this will affect how much food you require. Then enter the type and duration of activity, and you can save and analyze whether or not you’re getting enough activity.

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Then on the top menu go to Update Profile and hit the Save Today’s Changes button. Then on to your diet. Choose the foods from the search engine by entering keywords, then select the serving size if you know it, and how many servings you had. Then hit Save and Analyze and you can choose any or all of the anlayses to see how you did. (To look up a previous day’s analysis later all you have to do is enter the original date.)

tracker3.jpgCan’t find that Starbucks Frappuccino? I know. You can safely place that under Discretionary Calories (430 for the vanilla blended!), but you’ll have to look it up. Here’s a link for Starbucks coffee drink and food nutrition information. And to be fair, how about one for Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf?

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You’ll also need to be aware that foods like cream cheese, count as discretionary calories, and that will not show up in the analysis. Nor will it tell you that part of 2% milk, due to its fat content, counts as discretionary calories. So before you get all excited and pop a King Size Hershey bar in your mouth, check out what counts, or use the Menu Planner feature, which has the advantage of telling you what “counts.” If you’re not that interested in nitpicking every last thing, have a look at the nutrient analysis to make sure you aren’t consuming too many calories. Then you can decide how much room you have for “treats.”

The analysis compares your diet to MyPyramid, which will indicate the level of balance in your diet, by showing a nutrient analysis (which is an estimate because you’re using a database, but still, it’s a good estimate), or by showing how you meet the Dietary Guidelines. I’d suggest having a look at all of them. The nutrient analysis will alert you to your caloric, fat, sodium, vitamin and mineral intakes.

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