MyPyramid.gov. Because it’s administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), consider the site your tax dollars at work and take advantage of it for free. Using interactive tools, multimedia presentations and print materials, you can create a meal plan based on the USDA’s dietary guidelines.
Find Your Calories
Find your daily caloric requirements to lose, gain or maintain your weight at Calorie Count and keep that number handy. Then go to MyPyramid.gov and start by clicking MyPyramid Plan on the sidebar under Interactive Tools. Enter your age, height, weight, and level of physical activity to get MyPyramid’s estimate of your daily caloric needs to maintain. MyPyramid doesn’t allow adults to eat less than 1600 calories a day, which makes sense because they’re going for a lifelong eating plan.
Case in point: A 29-year-old woman, who we’ll call Jane, is 5’9”, weighs 169 pounds but would like to weigh 145 pounds, and has a light activity level. According to the MyPyramid Plan, Jane needs 2200 calories a day to gradually move to a healthy weight, but the CalorieCount tool gives her 1,639 calories a day to lose one pound a week. At MyPyamid, fiddle with the data at the “Edit Profile” button to get your desired calories, but don’t worry about an exact match. This is mainly an exercise in finding the right foods.
Plan Your Meals
MyPyramid Plan points you towards a balanced diet with the correct number of servings from the food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and beans, milk, and oils. They provide specific daily goals for each food group, given in ounces and cups, listed at the top of the graph. For instance, at 2200 calories, Jane needs 7 ounces of grains, 3 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of milk, 6 ounces of meat or beans, 6 teaspoons off oil, and 290 calories to use for extras all in one day.
As you enter what you plan to eat, MyPyramid Plan gives you feedback about what is missing as the day goes on. For those who need additional information about what to eat, the site explains this and even offers a worksheet to help you plan meals. To see the food groups needed at each calorie level, check out this chart.
Plan Your Week
Take the liberty to complete a week’s worth of meals according to the recommendations given. That is the best way to peg how to follow MyPyramid Plan. When you meet your requirements for the food groups, your diet analysis at Calorie Count will be just right, and by logging your food each and every day, you are bound to learn how to eat right.
And now that you know, walk the walk. Knowledge is power and in this case power to be healthy. Remember a healthy weight starts with a healthy plate.
By Carolyn Richardson and Mary Hartley, RD