The new food pyramid is geared to children aged 6 to 11. It was launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The child-friendly pyramid is a spin-off of the USDA's "My Pyramid" plan, which debuted in April.
The new illustration and materials were designed to be more appealing and appropriate for young children, but the nutritional advice has not changed, says the USDA.
The food groups are the same as those in the original, and the numbers of servings recommended for young children fall at the lower end of the recommended ranges, it says. Young children are not eating the recommended numbers of servings from most of the five major food groups, and the main focus of the kid-friendly food pyramid is variety.
The kids' pyramid also has an online computer game. In the game, called "Blast Off," kids must pick the right kinds of "fuel" (healthy foods and physical activity) for a rocket. The site also includes tips for families and educational materials.
The building blocks of the kids' food pyramid include:
Be physically active every day. The goal is for kids to get at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days, according to a worksheet on the USDA's My Pyramid for Kids web site.
Choose healthier foods from each food group. For instance, half of all grains should be whole grains, says the USDA.
Eat more of some food groups than others. The pyramid is heavier on fruits, veggies, grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products than on fat and protein.
- Eat foods from each food group every day. No need to shun any food group.
Personalizing your choices and making gradual improvements are also recommended.
Tips from My Pyramid for Kids include:
- Go for vegetables in a variety of colors.
- When eating meat, choose leaner options.
- Consider beans, fish, peas, nuts, and seeds as protein sources.
- When choosing dairy products, reach for low-fat or fat-free products most often.
- Choose fruit over fruit juices most of the time.
The child-oriented food pyramid instantly became a lightning rod for some groups.
"Ineffective" is the verdict from the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
"My Pyramid for Kids, like the adult My Pyramid, fails to convey the otherwise sensitive advice found in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans," notes a CSPI news release.
"The pyramid looks a little more cartoonish. It has a little figure running up the side. That's a little less abstract," CSPI spokesman Jeff Cronin tells WebMD.
"But for this program to succeed, it must now be met with strong action by government and education leaders to increase funding for effective health and physical education campaigns, step up efforts to increase availability of fruits and vegetables in schools, and limit the barrage of junk food advertising targeting children," a PBHF news release says.
The PBHF promotes eating more fruits and vegetables; it leads the National 5 A Day partnership.