April 22, 2005

New System Interactive, Based on Individual Needs

On April 19, the USDA unveiled MyPyramid, a new symbol and interactive food guidance system.

MyPyramid replaces the Food Guide Pyramid introduced in 1992 and emphasizes the need for a more individualized approach to improving diet and lifestyle. “Steps to a Healthier You,” MyPyramid’s central message, supports President George Bush’s HealthierUS initiative, designed to help Americans live longer, better and healthier lives, according to the USDA.

“MyPyramid is about the ability of Americans to personalize their approach when choosing a healthier lifestyle that balances nutrition and exercise,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. “Many Americans can dramatically improve their overall health by making modest improvements to their diets and by incorporating regular physical activity into their daily lives.”

MyPyramid incorporates recommendations from the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in January. The guidelines provide authoritative advice for people 2 years of age and older about how proper dietary habits can promote health and reduce the risk of major chronic diseases, according to the USDA.

The MyPyramid symbol represents the recommended proportion of foods from each food group and focuses on the importance of making smart food choices every day. Physical activity is a new element in the symbol. Consumers can get more in-depth information from the Web site, www.MyPyramid.gov.

Much to the delight of the fruit and vegetable industries, the new system encourages Americans to eat more produce.

“Fruits and vegetables have always made up the foundation of a healthy diet, and we support USDA’s renewed efforts to emphasize this and communicate it in a way many people should understand,” said Robert Guenther, vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association (UFFVA). “We’ve been long overdue for such a message from the government.”

The new system increased the recommended daily allowance of fruit and vegetables, according to UFFVA.

“United has worked closely with USDA throughout the creation of the new Guidance System, and we’re pleased with the agency’s increased emphasis on adequate daily fruit and vegetable consumption as a step toward better health,” Guenther said.

Produce makes up about one-third of the new food pyramid, which is great news for the fruit and vegetable industries, according to the Produce Marketing Association.

“In our comments to USDA, we stressed that produce had to be featured prominently in any dietary guidance graphic, and we’re thrilled to see that happen,” said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations for the marketing association. “We commend USDA for using language that clearly conveys the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables. This speaks to consumers in their own language and helps them understand exactly how much produce they should be eating each day.”

The new guidelines recommend eating the equivalent of two apples per day, according to the U.S. Apple Association (USApple).

“Of all the dietary advice recommended in the guide, eating apples may be the easiest to implement in today’s busy lifestyle,” said Wendy Davis, a nutritionist for USApple. “Apples are a handy, healthy snack that can be incorporated into virtually any meal. Advising Americans to eat more apples and other fruits and vegetables for health is recommended by the scientific community,” Davis said.

The new guidelines also pleased the potato industry.

“MyPyramid clearly acknowledges the value of incorporating potatoes into a healthy lifestyle,” said Dan Moss, president of the National Potato Council. “The MyPyramid system augments the potato industry’s efforts to showcase the nutritional benefits of potatoes.”

The produce industry is pleased, but just because the government is encouraging Americans to eat more fruit and vegetables doesn’t mean it will happen, said UFFVA’s Guenther.

“The government has made similar nutrition outreach efforts in the past with very poor results,” he said. “There is a tremendous, devastating gap between the advice presented by government experts and the way people actually live, and it will take more than a new shape and communication strategy to achieve real lifestyle change and improve public health.”

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