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Healthy to a point
The personalized food pyramid can lead you to a more healthy lifestyle
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These days, everything is personalized. Even the food pyramid.

Yes, that old government-issue guide to eating got a makeover in 2005, and now, by going to the MyPyramid Web site, you can enter your height, weight and activity level and get a pyramid created just for your lifestyle.

Rather than rely on set servings, as the original food pyramid did, this one approaches healthy eating in a much different way.

"It can’t be more individual," said Dr. James Hargrove, an associate professor in the Department of Foods and Nutrition at The University of Georgia. "In some ways it may be more difficult, but I think they were definitely seeking clarification for certain kinds of problems."

For example, the logo for the Food Pyramid shows a man hiking up the side. "It definitely makes a stronger recommendation for activity," Hargrove said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture redesigned the food pyramid to be simpler. The parts of the pyramid now include activity, moderation, personalization, proportionality, variety and gradual improvement along with the food groups.

"I was happy to see the new pyramid and how they changed it around," said Teryl Worster, owner and fitness director at The Body Sanctuary in Gainesville. "What I think is the best component is they are taking into consideration today’s world ... the way that they have situated the food pyramid is actually more reasonable as far as the nutrients involved and trying to get people active."

The original Food Guide Pyramid was developed in 1992 and was an educational tool to help Americans select healthful diets, according to www.

Hargrove said there were many problems with the old pyramid, including the inability to see the food groups clearly.

"Sometimes it was hard to tell within a category what were very healthy choices and what were not very healthy," he said. "One of the original difficulties ... was in part promulgated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There have always been commodity groups trying to say, ‘We need the American consumer to eat our products and that includes eggs and beef.’"

MyPyramid is a more personalized approach to healthy eating and physical activity, reflected from the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

"I think if you learn to use it, it probably is (more helpful) and you can customize it," Hargrove said. "The first time you see it, you say ‘What do I do now?’ It isn’t all that clear. So it does take a little more guidance."

For a person requiring 2,000 calories a day, MyPyramid suggests they eat two cups of fruits, two and half cups of vegetables, six ounces of grains, five and a half ounces of meats and beans, three cups of milk, six teaspoons of oils with 267 discretionary calories allowed.

"To me, (the discretionary calorie allowance is) the part to adjust for your own usage," Hargrove said. "It basically says if you are more active you can consume more and if you are careful about it you can do it in a healthy way."

The food groups included in MyPyramid are fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and beans, milk and oils, along with the discretionary calorie allowance. The fruits and vegetables groups include all fresh, frozen, canned and dried varieties, including juices.

Grains include all foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal or barley. This translated into bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas and grits, according to

"Whole-wheat is healthy, wild rice and brown rice would be two good grains, and oats and barley, those are the ones we use the most," said Maureen Stoy, a registered and licensed dietician and Diabetes Education Program at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

The MyPyramid meat group includes servings of red meat, beans, poultry or fish.

"A lot of people are trying to stay away from the red meat and it is certainly viable for people to have dried beans and peas and get their protein," Stoy said. "Those types are high fiber and higher protein foods that can decrease risks of developing other medical problems."

The milk portion includes all fluid milk products and foods made from milk that retain calcium content, like yogurt and cheese. The MyPyramid Web site does suggest sticking to low-fat or no-fat options.

"I think we are still looking at fats, especially saturated and trans fats, as being a precursor to many disease processes so we need to keep those at a minimal amount," Stoy said. "I think there are a lot of benefits of milk but I think if we take the fat out of it and go with the fat-free milk, we have an excellent product there and can be healthy for most anybody."

The smallest of all the food groups is the oils, which suggests six teaspoons for a 2,000 calorie diet.

"An oil is basically a fat and that means it is easy to overdo it," Hargrove said. "Especially with fried foods."

Hargrove adds that the most important oils to include are the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

"The slight difficulty with that is that there are the kinds that you find in fish oil ... and the ones that are in vegetable oil are just a little bit different ... both are used in the body and are not equivalent but are similar and both prevent disease," he said. "The advice would generally be choose the healthiest source of those oils."