The federal government recently overhauled its Food Guide Pyramid to include a variety of dietary options, depending on one's lifestyle and nutritional needs. The new pyramid features color-coded bands representing different food groups that now run vertically rather than horizontally. Originally, the pyramid, which was introduced in 1992, did not address the specifics of "serving size" and did not account for varied levels of physical activity or diabetic or vegetarian diets. With the new pyramid, the government uses cups, ounces, and other household measures, a change recommended in the recently released "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005." One suggested diet includes 2 cups of fruit, 2 1/2 cups of vegetables, 3 ounces of whole grains, and 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk per day. This new approach to eating is designed to complement the 30 minutes of exercise per day recommended by the government in order to reduce the risk of chronic disease. Internet tools also are available to help people to better understand and apply these guidelines. These revisions have all been in response to the increase in obesity among Americans, an epidemic that is threatening not only the health care system, but life expectancy. Eric Bost, undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services for the Department of Agriculture, commented, "If we don't change these trends, our children may be the first generation that cannot look forward to a longer life span than their parents."
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.