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Government gives dieters new online tool
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Most Americans see the beginning of the new year as a fresh start. They put the past behind them and resolve to do better this year. One of the most common new years resolutions, for men and women alike, is to lose weight. This year the U.S. Government hopes to help people reach that goal with the MyPyramid interactive food planner and the President’s Fitness Challenge.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid has been a standard for healthy eating since 1992. In 2005, the USDA revised the Pyramid to help motivate consumers to eat healthy and to better reflect proper nutrition. Now the USDA has an interactive menu online that can help Americans plan a healthy meal. The tool is called MyPyramid Menu Planner and it was launched in 2008.
Users can log on to to use the menu planner and other online tools for free. Those who create an account can also get detailed feedback on their food consumption and daily activity.
“It has three benefits. Based on the information you provide, it interactively shows whether your diet is balanced and allows you to track it. It gives you an easy way to know whether you are losing or gaining weight based on what you plan to eat. And it helps you plan your upcoming meals,” said Dr. Brian Wansink, executive director of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
Users enter their age, gender, height, and weight before they plan their menu. People with a Body Mass Index considered “overweight” by the USDA will be given the option of creating a weight loss plan.
All plans are generated by the user. They input what foods they plan to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. The Web site then generates nutrition reports and suggestions for a more balanced diet. It does not offer planned menus or recipes. Instead it teaches users how to make healthy eating decisions for themselves. Along with exercise, healthier eating should lead to weight loss.
To get on track with an exercise plan, the president has issued a challenge. The rules are simple, contestants have to exercise for half an hour every day. There are over 100 activities that contestants can chose from, everything from bowling to calisthenics to gardening. They just have to be active beyond what they do in a normal day.
Competitors can sign up at to officially take the challenge. To complete the challenge, they have to be active for half an hour for five days a week, for six weeks. Challengers can take up to eight weeks to complete the challenge. After six weeks of activity they win the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.
There are thousands of Web sites that guarantee quick and easy weight loss. However, the USDA recommends only one way to lose weight.
“You will lose weight when the calories you eat and drink are less than the calories you burn,” according to
That means that only through healthy eating and regular exercise can Americans finally stick to that new year’s resolution of losing weight.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.