Even those responsible for promoting the Food Guide Pyramid concede that it needs retooling. "The concern is, how much info can you put into a graphic image?" says John Webster, director of public information at the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. "And the answer is, 'not enough.' We're looking at how we can adjust the image so it conveys more information."

Among the information Webster hopes to convey is a more accurate under-standing of serving size. "How do you help people understand what a serving is?" muses Webster. "According to the Food Guide Pyramid, a serving of pasta is one-half cup. So, one large plate of spaghetti could easily be 11 servings, which is equal to a day's worth of grain servings for a person on a 2,800-calorie diet."
Still, it's not as simple as pointing fingers at the most recognized dietary guidelines in the world. "One of the charges we often hear is that carbohydrates are the culprit. The base of the Food Pyramid is grains and pasta, and a grain- and pasta-based diet is prevalent in many countries that don't experience Americans' levels of obesity. It just doesn't add up," says Webster. Instead, he suggests that Americans should take a look at other lifestyle choices, particularly their level of physical activity. "Computers, TV, video games; it all adds up to a less-active population."

True enough. But active or not, it's crucial to follow a healthy diet, whether you're trying to lose weight or simply get the most from your days. "The key is balance, both in terms of what you eat and how you eat it," says Sue Hewlings, who holds a PhD in nutrition and a master's in exercise physiology and is an assistant professor in Stetson University's Integrative Health Sciences Department. "You need to balance your carbohydrate, protein, and fat intake and you need to eat them together. When you eat simple carbohydrates alone, they empty the stomach too quickly and create a sharp rise in blood sugar. This makes you feel hungry sooner and can even lead to Type II diabetes."