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How does the new pyramid differ from the old one? Take a look.

 
Old PyramidNew Pyramid
Name: Food Guide PyramidName: MyPyramid
1 pyramid12 pyramids
Two-dimensional graphic; one size fits all approachInteractive tool; customized based on age, gender and physical activity
Vague description of how much to eat ("servings sizes" could be confusing)Detailed description of how much to eat (for example, "2 cups of fruit per day")
6 food categories (and suggested servings):

1. bread, cereal, rice and pasta (6-11 servings)

2. vegetable (3-5 servings)

3. fruit (2-4 servings)

4. milk, yogurt and cheese (2-3 servings)

5. meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts (2-3 servings)

6. fats, oils and sweets (use sparingly)
6 food categories (and suggested servings):

1. grains (6 ounces)

2. vegetables (2 cups)

3. fruits (2 cups)

4. milk (3 cups, 2 cups for kids aged 2 to 8)

5. meat and beans (5 ounces)

6. oils (about 3-7 teaspoons, depending on age and gender)
No mention of physical activityEqual emphasis on physical activity and healthy eating

The figures above are for a 2,000-calorie per day diet. The new interactive pyramid at www.mypyramid.gov provides servings suggestions for other calorie diets.

 

Get Active

The biggest change in the new advice is to add physical activity to your day. Research shows that 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day is needed to reap health benefits. You're probably already doing some of these activities throughout your week. The new guidelines stress the value of doing something every day.

Benefit: Daily activity can help you control your weight, which helps to lower your risk of a host of illnesses, including diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

Moderate physical activities:

  • Walking briskly (about 3 miles per hour a mile in about 17 minutes)
  • Hiking
  • Gardening/yard work
  • Dancing
  • Golf (walking and carrying clubs)
  • Bicycling (less than 10 miles per hour a mile in 6 minutes or more)
  • Weight training (general light workout)

Vigorous physical activities:

  • Running/jogging (5 miles per hour a mile in 12 minutes)
  • Bicycling (more than 10 miles per hour a mile in 6 minutes or less)
  • Swimming (freestyle laps)
  • Aerobics
  • Walking very fast (4 miles per hour a mile in about 13 minutes)
  • Heavy yard work, such as chopping wood
  • Weight lifting (vigorous effort)
  • Basketball (competitive)

 

Eat Whole Grains

There are two types of grains: whole and refined. Refined grains are processed to give them a smoother texture and longer life on store shelves. Unfortunately, refining removes fiber and iron. Refined grains are typically "enriched," which means the manufacturer adds iron and vitamins back in, but enriching cannot add back fiber.

Benefit: Fiber-rich foods lower levels of cholesterol, reduce the risk of death from heart disease, improve bowel regularity and may help you manage your weight.

Check the ingredient list of the foods you buy. Look for "whole grain" or "whole wheat."

There are many whole grains available, from the well known to the obscure:

  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Whole wheat cereal flakes
  • Muesli
  • Whole-grain barley
  • Whole-grain cornmeal
  • Whole rye
  • Whole-wheat bread, crackers, pasta
  • Whole-wheat sandwich buns, rolls, tortillas
  • Wild rice
  • Amaranth
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum
  • Triticale

 

Choose "Better" Veggies

Not all vegetables are created equal. If you eat nothing but iceberg lettuce, it's time to upgrade to some power-packed veggies.

Benefit: A diet rich in vegetables can decrease high blood pressure, may reduce the risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and may protect against certain cancers.

The new guidelines talk up the value of specific vegetables, including:

  • Dark green vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, bok choy, mustard greens, kale
  • Orange vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash (acorn, butternut, Hubbard)


Go for a Variety of Fruit

Because different fruits provide different nutrients and offer different health benefits, do your best to eat a variety of these natural disease fighters. As an added boost, most fruits are dessert-worthy in sweetness but low in calories, so you can treat yourself without worrying about your waistline.

Benefit: Fruits are full of nutrients to keep multiple body systems healthy and functioning well, reducing your risk of chronic disease and other health problems.

Fruits are bountiful, so you've got a large selection to choose from, including:

  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Melon
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapples
  • Plums
  • Raisins

Don't forget to include 100% fruit juice as you tally up your intake for the day.

 

Consume Milk and Milk Products

The milk group includes more than the liquid you pour over cereal or into coffee. To qualify for the milk group, a milk product needs to include calcium. (Products made from milk that don't include calcium such as butter don't count.) Calcium helps make bones stronger. Other nutrients in milk products include potassium and vitamin D.

Benefit: Milk and milk products that include calcium contribute to strong, healthy bones and can help keep you fit as a fiddle throughout life.

Here is what's included on the milk menu:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
    • Hard cheeses, such as Swiss and cheddar
    • Soft cheeses, such as ricotta and cottage cheese
    • Processed cheeses, such as American
  • Yogurt
  • Milk-based desserts, such as pudding, ice milk, frozen yogurt, ice cream

Alas, one drawback to milk is that it can be high in fat, so stick with fat-free or low-fat products, which offer the nutritional benefits without increasing your belt size.

If you are lactose intolerant, and milk upsets your belly, be aware that there are many lactose-free or low-lactose alternatives available.

 

Chow Down on Fish, Beans, Nuts and Seeds

The protein food group is surprisingly broad in terms of selection. Fish, beans, nuts and seeds provide protein with little or no saturated fats. Other protein choices include lean meats, poultry and eggs.

This group includes all sorts of great nutrients that you need to build a body strong, including protein, iron, B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc and magnesium. Fish and nuts also include essential fatty acids, which are good for your heart, so mix up your food choices to make sure you reap the maximum nutritional benefit.

Benefit: Protein-rich foods in this group are essential building blocks for bones, muscles, tissues, red blood cells, and other core body systems.

So many choices. Here's just a sampling of tasty options:

  • Fish
    • Catfish
    • Flounder
    • Halibut
    • Salmon
    • Swordfish
    • Trout
    • Tuna
    • Shellfish, such as clams and lobster
    • Canned fish, such as anchovies and sardines
  • Beans and peas
    • Black beans
    • Chickpeas
    • Kidney beans
    • Lentils
    • Soybeans (also found in tofu)
  • Nuts and seeds
    • Almonds
    • Cashews
    • Peanuts (and peanut butter)
    • Pecans
    • Sesame seeds
    • Walnuts
  • Lean Meats
    • Beef
    • Pork
    • Veal
  • Poultry without the skin
    • Chicken
    • Turkey
    • Duck
  • Eggs

      On the downside, foods in this group are often high in fat and cholesterol, and sometimes sodium, which may cancel out the benefits you hope to gain. Always choose lean cuts of meat and avoid adding unnecessary fats during cooking (such as frying chicken). Read nutritional labels to make sure there is more good stuff than bad.

      Select Healthy Oils

      Oils are a type of fat. Some oils come from plants; others come from animals. In general, fats from fish, nuts and vegetable oils are healthier than the fats found in butter, margarine, shortening and lard. Fats make up the smallest section of MyPyramid, which means you should consume them in limited amounts. In limited quantities, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils can be used for cooking, on salads and as a spread on whole grain bread.

      Benefit: To lower your risk of heart disease, reduce the foods you eat that contain saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol.

       

       

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