Find out what amounts work for you

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has made over its Food Pyramid to make it more user-friendly. The Food Pyramid Web site,, contains lots of information on nutrition and recommended portion sizes. To find out what amounts you should eat in each of the five food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, milk and meat and beans), fill out the “My Pyramid Plan” feature on the right. That will lead to suggested servings in the various food groups. On that page, pick a food category and click on the “tips” link to the right of the category. Next page: There will be a “Related Topics” box, again on the right. Pick a category. On the page that comes up, find the blue “Food Gallery” button and click on any underlined food you want to check out. That will call up pictures of sample sizes in that food category. You can change the category from the “Related Topics” box.

Understanding portion sizes

While fruits and vegetables in particular get a bad rap for being expensive, dietitian Cynthia Sass says it doesn’t take much of either to improve one’s diet and eat healthier.

On average, she says, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends people eat about two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day.

This may sound daunting, but a serving of fruit can be as small as a golf ball-sized handful of raisins, a tennis ball-sized handful of fresh berries or a 6-ounce cup of juice – about the size of a yogurt container.

For vegetables? Try a tennis ball-sized handful of raw veggies or a 4-ounce serving of cooked – about the size of a small, prepackaged fruit cup.

“We’re also missing whole grains,” Sass says. Most Americans are eating a majority of refined grains, like those found in white bread, while the USDA recommends at least three servings of whole grains a day, like oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat.

Three servings sound like too much? Sass says a single slice of whole wheat, oat or rye bread counts as one serving.

Some may still insist it’s too expensive to eat healthy, but Sass says eating the right foods is an important investment that can save on medical and health-care costs down the road. “Food is preventative medicine, no doubt about it,” she says. Just eating the right amount of fruits and vegetables cuts a person’s cancer risk by about 30 percent.

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