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Wilburn: Eat healthier with a MyPyramid menu plan

POSTED: June 22, 2008 5:02 a.m.

On March 11, the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion released the new MyPyramid Menu Planner.

This planner, using information from the government's new food pyramid, interactively shows whether your food choices are balanced for the day or over the week when compared to the MyPyramid goals. It also provides specific ways to improve your food choices based on your personal dietary analysis and needs.

The data input is easy and the reports help you make concrete decisions about improving food choices and physical activity for you and your family.

Simply enter information such as your age, gender, height, activity level and weight, and it takes you to the Menu Planning page.

For each food and beverage item entered, a box pops up that prompts you to enter the serving size. Also included with some foods are "add-ons" that you can choose, like butter or sour cream. As each item is entered, a set of bar graphs displays how close you are to the amounts recommended for you from each of the food groups.

Also listed are the discretionary calories from extra fat and sugar that you have used with your selections.

After entering all your menu items, you can then generate different reports. One summarizes for each food group whether you have met your nutritional needs or not. For each area needing improvement, "Next Steps" are provided to help you choose strategies that will help you get nearer to the dietary goal. You are even encouraged to type in your own personal strategy if it is not already listed. Then the strategy or list of strategies you have chosen are displayed in a chart to help you keep track of your efforts to implement these improvements over the next seven days.

Another report allows you to see the average intakes from each of the food groups over several days if you have entered multiple menus. The "Next Steps" function is also available here.

You can also add the food diaries of other family members and get a report on their food and activity intake. A final report provides an analysis of each food on your menus by amount, food group, total calories and saturated fat.

MyPyramid food plans are designed for the general public, ages 2 and older. They are not therapeutic diets; those with a specific health condition should consult with a health care provider for a dietary plan that is right for them.

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.



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