After 13 years, the U.S. government’s “Food Pyramid” was recently updated. Todd Zwillich reports on it for WebMD Medical News in an article entitled New Food Pyramid Gets Personal published on April 19, 2005.

Mr. Zwillich writes that “Officials say they once again hope to make the revamped pyramid, now decorated with a series of colored bands representing food groups, a fixture in schools, doctors’ offices, and health clinics throughout the nation. They also hope that a new emphasis on exercise and moderate eating will finally help make a dent in America’s obesity epidemic, now affecting more than one-third of adults and nearly one-fifth of teens.”

The revised pyramid includes two important new features: the emphasis on exercise as a precursor to health and the flexibility to personalize the new guidelines for each individual.

The new pyramid depicts steps on the side with an image of a person climbing the stairs. This stresses the value to our health of combining physical activity with eating a balanced diet. As our technology advances, the propensity toward a sedentary lifestyle increases. The creators of this new image should be applauded for attempting to bring physical activity to the forefront of our consciousness.

The other exciting change is that one set of recommendations is no longer applicable to everyone. Zwillich reports that it’s designed to help individuals plan their dietary intake based on their age, sex and level of daily physical activity. It is official: Our government has embraced the fact that as individuals, we have individual needs, which is truly a breakthrough. Zwillich gives the following example:

A 55-year-old female who exercises less than 30 minutes a day is told to consume 1,600 calories per day in a diet consisting of 5 ounces of grains, 3.5 ounces of fruits and vegetables, 3 cups of milk and dairy products, and 5 ounces of meat and beans. For a man of the same age and exercise level, the site calls for a diet limited to 2,000 calories per day.

This is of great advantage over the old pyramid, where the number of servings, not serving size was outlined. Now we have 12 different pyramids representing the different nutritional needs for every person. As described above, each individual pyramid gives guidelines for the specific number of cups of each food category to be consumed each day. The dilemma of how to showcase all of this information on one chart was resolved with current technology — the internet. The website,, gives visitors the option of entering their age, sex and physical activity level to view their very own customized pyramid.

The Food Pyramid improvements bring us closer to creating a healthier population. Very much in line with many healthcare practitioner’s perspectives, the 2005 Food Pyramid places an importance on physical activity and personalized nutritional needs. The popularization of these concepts will permeate mainstream thought. As these new guidelines are taught to our children, we will see a more healthful society materialize.