Developed in 1992, the Food Guide Pyramid (FGP) was an educational tool designed to help Americans choose healthy foods. It was based on information from the Dietary Guidelines and the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA’s) reports. However, the FGP was a generic formula for everyone and didn’t take into account one’s age, gender, or physical activity. In 2005, MyPyramid, the new food guidance system, replaced the original, however outdated, Food Guide Pyramid.
Martial artists are a diversified group with various nutritional needs. MyPyramid is a better tool than the Food Guide Pyramid (FGP) since the “typical” student can be male or female, ages 3 to 80.
So what are the major differences between the FGP and MyPyramid?
First is an expansion of the “food intake patterns.” MyPyramid has 12 patterns, representing differences in requirements based on age, gender, and activity level as opposed to FGP’s 3 calorie levels. This will help to better tailor food intake to activity level. Think of this as “How many calories do I need?”
The second difference is the representation of the quantity of foods to consume. The word “serving” is confusing to many people, leading to over-eating. Since obesity is epidemic, the objective of MyPyramid is to become the best possible tool not only to assist us in making appropriate food choices, but also to balance our energy expenditure with our food intake. This is crucial in maintaining appropriate weight and performance for martial artists. Think of this as “What is a serving?”
Thirdly, although MyPyramid uses the same food groups, there is a shift of emphasis on certain groups. It recommends making half of your grains whole and eating dark leafy vegetables. There is a focus on fruit as well as advice on where to get your fat and oils (ideally from fish, nuts, and vegetable oil). MyPyramid encourages the consumption of nutrient-dense foods. Think of this as “What kind of food should be in my serving?”
And finally, exercise is very important in MyPyramid (there’s even someone walking up the stairs in its symbol!) MyPyramid recommends moderate to vigorous exercise for 30 minutes every day!
This is in addition to your normal daily activities – walking to the bus stop, going to the grocery store, walking the dog.
Jennifer Galea is a contributing writer for Martial Arts Monthly magazine.