Remember the food pyramid that we had to memorize during elementary school? Well, it underwent a total makeover reflecting the latest scientific advances in diet and health.
The triangle shape stayed the same, but that is about it! The inside of the new pyramid underwent a complete revamp - no more blocks showing illustrative drawings of the different food groups. The new pyramid is pictureless, featuring a color-coded vertical rainbow of stripes which correspond to the various food categories (fruits, vegetables, grains,etc...).
Information more specific
The new pyramid lists the portions by measurement, such as six ounces of grain products daily, half of which should be from whole grains. With the former recommendations, a person can eat anywhere between 6 to 11 servings of grain products daily. Not only is this range too wide, there is also no mention of how much is in a serving. The revised pyramid eliminates ambiguity, identifies serving sizes and focuses on the consumption of whole grains.
Not all fats are created equal
The old pyramid does not differentiate between good and bad fats. The newer version recognizes that not all fats should be banned. Monounsaturated fats, such as nuts, avocados and olive oil play a favorable role in weight loss. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish provide an avalanche of health benefits from lowering cholesterol to improving memory. Fried and processed foods (loaded with saturated and trans fats) are the fats to be avoided as they are the main culprits in causing weight gain and blocking the arteries.
Physical fitness is stressed in the new model, recommending that adults should have at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week; 60 minutes for children. To prevent weight gain or sustain weight loss, the guidelines are even more stringent, advising 60 to 90 minutes daily. The old model didn't even mention exercise at all.
At MyPyramid.gov, you will not only view the new and improved pyramid, but you can also personalize it by planning a menu based on your age, gender and physical activity. Other interactive tools include tracking food intake and physical activity for up to a year, giving you a better picture of your health over time, as well as, offering evaluations based on your own personal "score".
One size doesn't fit all
For this reason, the old pyramid was replaced with not just one pyramid, but 12 different ones, tailoring to different lifestyles and dietary needs. If you are breastfeeding, pregnant, vegetarian or diabetic, a plan can be devised for you online. Pyramids are also broken down for preschoolers (2-5 years old) and kids (6-11 years old). With childhood obesity becoming a global concern, sitting with your children and devising their own personal pyramid - and not just verbally lecturing - may encourage them to stick to healthy eating.
Dr Sandy Zabaneh is a US board-certified Doctor in Pharmacy who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology from University of California, Davis. She is the Health Editor of U Magazine, clinical pharmacy consultant and life coach. Dr Sandy likes to follow the motto set forth by the World Health Organization in 1948: Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Check out her blog at http://www.sandyzabanehblog.com