Just how healthy is your diet? Are you getting all the nutrients you need? Is your dietary pyramid lopsided? What about your level of activity?
The answers are just a few clicks away at USDA’s MyPyramid Web site. An exciting feature of this Web site (www.MyPyramid.gov) is My Pyramid Tracker. This online interactive dietary assessment tool is designed to help consumers and nutrition professionals determine the quality of individual diet and activity levels.
Once you have logged into the program and created your own password, you develop your own personal profile by typing in your age, gender, height and weight. Next, you chose whether to first analyze your diet or your physical activity level. If you select diet assessment, the program asks you to enter the foods you’ve eaten on a previous day or on a usual day. For each food item, you also need to select a serving size and the number of serving consumed.
Once you have entered all the foods and beverages in a day’s diet, you then proceed to the analysis stage. My Pyramid Tracker allows you to analyze the diet you entered against three different nutrient standards: the Recommended Dietary Allowances for your age/gender group, the newly revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPyramid food group recommendations for your age/gender group. A smiley face by each individual evaluation can be selected to learn personalized information on how to improve in that area.
While a 24-hour recall can provide some insight, it’s only a snapshot of your dietary habits. Our diets vary so widely from day to day that, in order to obtain a true picture of one’s normal eating pattern, several days need to be recorded. My Pyramid Tracker has made this easy to do; the site will "remember" your previous entries so that each time you log on you can add to them. There are even graphs that can chart your nutrient history over several days. One of the things I learned in using My Pyramid Tracker was that my diet provided more grain foods and less calcium and vegetable foods than desired.
My Pyramid Tracker also tracks physical activity. Like the diet tracker, you enter the different activities you engaged in during the day, their intensity and duration, then click to analyze. Your activity level is evaluated on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being ideal. Like the diet tracker, you can track and compare your physical activity progress over time.
Another feature of the Web site is the Diet and Health Information button with links to various government and health association Web sites. Whether your concern is cancer, heart disease, women’s issues or something else, you’ll find the needed link is just a click away.
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by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension