It’s extreme makeover – food pyramid style. Announced in late April, MyPyramid is the new symbol and interactive food guidance system for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and replaces the Food Guide Pyramid that was introduced back in 1992. Changes include an emphasis on physical activity, whole grains, moderation, variety and perhaps the biggest change of all – individualization.

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

The new symbol incorporates recommendations from the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which was released by the USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in January. Its theme, “Steps to a Healthier You,” is based off of President Bush’s Healthier US initiative to help Americans live longer, better and healthier lives.

The new symbol was designed to be simple and is meant to encourage consumers to make healthier food choices and to be active everyday. Each colored strip on the new pyramid is a sliver of the total diet and represents the five food groups – grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans – and oils to promote variety. On one side of the pyramid is a person climbing steps to remind consumers of the importance of daily physical activity. Moderation is shown through the narrowing of each food group from bottom to top. The wider base stands for foods with little or no solid fats, added sugars or caloric sweetners. The pyramid recommends that these foods should be selected more often to get the most nutrition from calories consumed. The different widths of the food group bands represent proportionality. Widths suggest how much food a person should chose from each group, but are just a general guide. For further personalization, consumers and your members can visit the MyPyramid Web site to see what kinds and amounts of food they should eat every day according to their age, gender and daily activity level.

Currently the Web site features a personalized plan, food intake tracker, in-depth information on food groups with recommended daily amounts in commonly used measures, tips and resources for how to get started. Future enhancements to the site are planned such as a looking at the portions of favorite foods and a child-friendly version for teachers and children. For more information go to www.mypyramid.gov.