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42. MyPyramid Emphasizes Changes in Diet, Physical Activity, and Eating Behaviors.

In addition to showing a variety of foods that can make up a healthy diet, MyPyramid illustrates the diet and lifestyle themes of physical activity, proportionality, moderation, variety, personalization, and gradual improvement.

The Dietary Guidelines recommend that you become physically active. Being physically active helps you to stay fit and reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. You can also eat more food without compromising your weight.

Proportionality means how much of your total diet should be eaten from each of five food groups. The most important food groups are: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and meat and beans.

Note:  oils are not a food group.

Grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean milk groups should provide the bulk of your diet. Oils and meats mean that these should be eaten in lesser amounts. Take the following Self-Assessment to see how well-proportioned your diet is.

The pyramid tells you to choose mostly nutrient-dense foods from each food group. Nutrient density refers to the amount of nutrients a food contains in relationship to the number of calories it contains. More  nutrient-dense  foods  provide  more  nutrients  per  calorie  (and  in  each bite) than less nutrient-dense foods, and so are better choices for meeting your DRIs.

The foundation of your diet should be comprised of nutrient-dense foods with little added sugar and solid fats. Sugar and solid fats, should be eaten in moderation because they add calories that are less nutrient dense to your diet.

Let’s compare the nutrient density of two versions of the same food: a medium baked potato and an ounce of potato chips. Both have about the same number of calories, but the baked potato provides much more foliate, potassium, and vitamin C, and is therefore much more nutrient dense, than the deep-fried chips. If you routinely choose foods with a lot of added sugar and solid fats, you will have to reduce your food intake elsewhere to compensate for the extra calories. This could cause you to displace healthier foods in your diet. If you don’t adjust for these extra calories, but eat them in addition to your normal diet, you will soon experience weight gain.

In contrast to nutrient density, energy density refers to foods that are high in energy but low in weight or volume, such as that potato chip. A serving of deep-fried chips weighs much less than a plain baked potato, but is considerably higher in fat and calories. Therefore, the chip contains more calories per gram. A big, leafy green salad, on the other hand, is large in volume but low in energy density, due to its high water content. Most higher-fat foods, such as fried foods and candy, are considered energy dense.

Individuals who choose low-energy-dense and high-nutrient-dense foods will generally have diets that are lower in fat and higher in nutrient content. Eating foods from each food group will increase your chances of consuming all 40 of the nutrients your body needs. Because no single food or food group provides all the nutrients, a varied diet of nutrient-dense foods is the savviest strategy.

The interactive website component of My Pyramid is designed to help you plan a personalized diet based on your dietary and lifestyle needs.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.”  Adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle, and changing long-term eating habits, takes time. The slogan “Steps to a Healthier You” and the steps on the side of MyPyramid reinforce the need for gradual improvement. Taking small steps of improvement every day can be less overwhelming and will ultimately be beneficial to your health.

Which Is the Healthier Way to Enjoy Your Potatoes?

While one ounce of potato chips and one medium baked potato have similar amounts of calories, their nutrient content is worlds apart. A baked potato is more nutrient dense than potato chips.

*Note: Based on the percentage of the DRI for 19–50-year-old males. All these percentages apply to females in the same age range except for vitamin C.

Females have lower vitamin C needs than males, so a baked potato provides more than 20 percent of the DRI for this vitamin for women.

Food Groups

To learn more about how foods and nutrients fit in the MyPyramid food groups, visit and complete this interactive NutriTools activity.

Americans are eating more than double the amount of full-fat cheeses than they did in the early 1970s. Remember to choose part skim, low-fat, or reduced-fat cheeses most often.


Proportionality - The relationship of one entity to another. Grains, fruits, and vegetables should be consumed in a higher proportion than oils and meats in the diet.

Nutrient density - The amount of nutrients per calorie in a given food.

Nutrient-dense foods provide more nutrients per calorie than less nutrient-dense foods.

Energy density - A measurement of the calories in a food compared with the weight (grams) or volume of the food.



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