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USDA Web site set up to evaluate diets

August 24, 2005|by LYNN F. LITTLE

How healthy is your diet? Are you getting all the nutrients you need? What about your level of activity?

The answers to these questions are just a few clicks away at U.S. Department of Agriculture's "My Pyramid" Web site. An exciting feature of this Web site ( www.mypyramid.gov) is the My Pyramid Tracker. This online interactive dietary assessment tool is designed to help you determine the quality of your 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 choose 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 servings consumed.

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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 and gender, the newly revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the My Pyramid food group recommendations for your age and gender. 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 widely from day to day. To obtain a true picture of an 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. You will discover which dietary recommendations you are meeting and which ones you might need to improve.

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.

Along with the My Pyramid Tracker, there are tips and resources available. You will find a wealth of suggestions here that can help you get started toward a healthful diet. Choose a change that you can make today and move forward.

Another feature of the Web site is the related links button that will provide diet and health information. This section has links to various government and health association Web sites. Whether your concern is cancer, heart disease or something else, you'll find the needed link is just a click away.




Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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