The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) newly revised Food Guidance System called MyPyramid was released today to visually depict the amount of nutrient-dense foods Americans should consume on a daily basis: 3 cups or equivalent of low-fat and nonfat milk, cheese, or yogurt; 3 ounces of whole grains; 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables; and 5.5 ounces of lean meat or beans. In addition to the new graphic, the Food Guidance System, “Steps to a Healthier You,” also provides interactive tools that allow consumers to personalize the Dietary Guidelines to their individual tastes and nutritional needs.

“The new pyramid truly reflects the importance of a broad range of naturally nutrient-rich foods, like low-fat and nonfat milk and dairy products, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, forming the foundation of the diet,” says registered dietitian Andrea Garen with the Dairy Council of California. “It also allows people to individualize the pyramid to meet their specific nutritional and physical activity needs.”

Personalization is a key focus of the new food guide graphic. In fact the graphic is meant to be just that, simply a graphic. USDA’s website, allows people to personalize the graphic to their individual caloric and physical activity requirements. The website features 12 different pyramids to meet the specific and unique needs of all Americans. The website also offers tips and tools on how to make the new pyramid work for you.

MyPyramid reinforces the importance for Americans to take small steps to reach a healthy lifestyle. From taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator to choosing string cheese as a snack instead of chips, it is the small things that Americans can change in their eating patterns and physical activity that can make a difference over time. The emphasis on physical activity is now reflected directly in the MyPyramid graphic with a picture of a person walking up a set of stairs on the side of the three-dimensional pyramid.

The new graphic also focuses on nutrient-dense foods and encourages Americans to consume more low-fat and nonfat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods, especially low-fat and nonfat dairy products, provide a powerhouse of nutrients including potassium, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin A.