LPM Staff

Living by the food pyramid

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As I ruminate on this story, I am snacking on chicken lo mein (extra spicy) and a fistful of fried pork dumplings. How, exactly, would this Chinese takeout be classified on the latest food pyramid published by the USDA? I can’t help but notice the brillo on the noodles and wonder how much fat I’m consuming in this one meal. Would I have been better off eating a turkey sandwich instead?

Voilá. At www.myfoodapedia.gov, I can get answers to my dietetic questions within a few mouse clicks. Not only can I find out how many calories I’m ingesting, the app also breaks my leftovers down by food group. I can even compare the nutritional value of the chicken lo mein and dumplings to the (healthier) turkey sandwich. It’s a very handy application.

OK, it may not be exact science, but it’s at least in the caloric ballpark. A little math is involved, but if you at least know the main ingredient and serving size, you can get a general idea of calorie intake.

Foodapedia is just one of several interactive gadgets at www.mypyramid.gov, which provides nutritional information released in 2005 by the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). MyPyramid is the latest incarnation of nutrition education from the USDA, only this version emphasizes activity and moderation, and has a more personalized approach. A newer, updated version of the food pyramid is due out this year.

The food pyramid dates back to 1992. Before that, it was the Basic Four: meats, milk, grains, and fruits and vegetables. The Basic Four was actually a pared-down version of the “basic seven” introduced by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1943. Later, in the 1970s, a fifth group was added to cover fats, sugars and alcohol. Oye, that gives me pause …

Fats, sugars and alcohol as a food group? This must have given many experts pause, too. The establishment of the USDA CNPP in 1994 was the government taking a harder look at the nation’s eating habits, when obesity, diabetes and other dietary diseases were on the rise.

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