Roger Clemens, Shelley Goldberg, R.D.,

Tazima Davis

MyPyramid Adds New Dimension to Food Guidance
The revision—and revitalization—of the 1993 Food Guide Pyramid adds new dimensions to the discussion of conveying food guidance to consumers, especially with the addition of the physical activity component to the new symbol.

The new MyPyramid food guidance system, released on April 19, 2005, is an interactive nutrition education tool intended to help consumers apply personalized dietary guidance to achieve a healthful lifestyle. While the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released this January, represents a comprehensive review of nutrition science and health and can serve as a blueprint for product development, MyPyramid may shift attention toward innovative package design to encourage consumers to implement the revised guidance on food choices and physical activity.

MyPyramid features vertical bands of color—one for each food group. These bands are wider toward the base of the pyramid to encourage consumers to choose nutrient-dense foods more often. The bands become narrower toward the top, indicating moderate intake of less nutrient-dense (high-calorie) foods. The latest addition to the symbol, the figure ascending a staircase, reminds consumers to include physical activity as part of a healthful lifestyle. MyPyramid uses a practical approach to harmonize dietary guidance messages with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines by incorporating the concepts of personalization, gradual improvement, physical activity, variety, moderation, and proportionality (aka balance).

The government projected the need to move away from a one-size-fits-all model to use a more customized approach. Eric Hentges, Executive Director of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Center of Nutrition Policy and Promotion, explained that the newly developed interactive tools allow consumers to personalize MyPyramid based on their age, sex, and level of physical activity. Research by the Dietary Guidelines Alliance found that consumers respond favorably to consumer-tested messages consistent with those in MyPyramid. Some effective consumer-tested messages include encouraging consumers to be flexible in balancing food choices with physical activity over several days, to be sensible in enjoying foods without overdoing it, and to be adventurous in choosing a wide variety of foods.

For food scientists, the release of MyPyramid means helping consumers to seek better food-based solutions in an effort to reduce obesity and the risk of chronic disease. The revised recommendations may seem daunting to some consumers, and therefore creative product reformulation and packaging development may help. As food purveyors in an increasingly demanding, convenience-oriented food environment, food scientists have a unique and challenging opportunity to develop even more healthful foods that deliver taste, value, and convenience.

As consumers implement changes in diet and physical activity, they may seek additional foods that support a healthful lifestyle. To help consumers use MyPyramid in implementing new dietary guidance, it will be important show them where these foods fit.

MyPyramid is an innovative tool to help consumers take steps toward improving their personal health. Food producers can also take steps to become partners in encouraging consumers to use MyPyramid. Many companies have already announced that they will participate in efforts to educate the public by including MyPyramid graphics and Dietary Guidelines recommendations in revised package designs. Furthermore, collaborative efforts, through public and private partnerships, can minimize resistance, enhance acceptance, and encourage implementation of the dietary guidance.

The Hot Topics session entitled "The Opportunities and Limitations of Food Science and Technology in Implementing Nutrition Recommendations through Food-Based Solutions" at the IFT Annual Meeting + FOOD EXPO® in New Orleans in July is designed to continue this important dialogue and to help build a bridge between food science and nutrition. Other related symposia include "2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: The Science" and "2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: What Consumers and Food Product Developers Tell Us." They will be worth attending.

Director, Analytical Research
Professor, Molecular Pharmacology & Toxicology
USC School of Pharmacy, Los Angeles, Calif.
[email protected]

Associate Director, Nutrition Communications
International Food Information Council
Washington, DC 20036
[email protected]

Program Coordinator
Nutrition and Food Science Communications,
International Food Information Council
Washington, DC 20036
[email protected]