Jessica Dean and Robin Rodriguez

Last spring, the United States Department of Agriculture released its newest diet innovation, the Food Guide Pyramid. It’s filled with new and updated recommendations for the diet and exercise regimens of all Americans over the age of two. Did you hear about it? The government even gave the Pyramid its own Web site,, which is very user-friendly. When you go on the site, you can enter your age, gender and activity level and it tells you how many calories per day you need to maintain your current weight. It also generates customized combinations of food amounts from each group for you to eat daily and tips on how to work those foods into your diet. Did you check it out? If you are one of the few who went on the site and saw the recommendations, how did your diet compare?

A senior project recently completed by nutrition student Anna Chew sought to determine how closely Cal Poly students follow the recommendations in the Pyramid. Anna surveyed 100 Cal Poly students in a variety of majors and obtained recalls of the food they had consumed during a typical 24-hour period. Of the students interviewed, all met the requirement for the grain group (about 6 ounce equivalents per day) and most of them (57 percent) met the requirement for protein in the meat and beans group (also 6 ounce equivalents per day). However, 25 percent of students went an entire day without consuming a single piece of fruit and 18 percent of students did not consume one vegetable. In fact, only 2 percent (or two students) actually met all the dietary recommendations. Those two students were, you guessed it, senior nutrition students.

Anna combined the average amounts of all the foods consumed in the 100 surveys to compile a “Cal Poly Pyramid,” a representation of all the foods consumed by the students at Cal Poly. A comparison of the Pyramid recommendations for a 2,000 calorie diet with the average Cal Poly student’s diet is illustrated at the bottom of this article.

So what does all this mean? Well, it doesn’t mean much if you don’t do something about it. This winter break you should resolve to eat a better diet and get some exercise. Stop by the Pyramid’s Web site and educate yourself. If you need some advice learning how to use the Pyramid, visit the nutrition team on the lower level of the Health Center. We’re always here to help.

Guidelines for a 2,000-calorie diet

1. Fruit: 2 cups (4-1/2 c. servings)

2. Vegetables: 2.5 c. (5-1/2 c. servings)

3. Grains: 6 ounce equivalents

4. Lean meat & beans: 6 ounce equiv.

5. Milk: 1 cup (3 servings)

The average Cal Poly Student’s Intake and percents of recommendation

1. Fruit: 2 1/3 cups (59 percent of rec.)

2. Vegetables: 2.9 cups (53 percent of rec.)

3. Grains: 6.06 ounces (101 percent of rec.)

4. Lean meat & beans: 5.8 oz eq. (97 percent)

5. Milk: 1 3/4 c. (59 percent)

Robin Rodriguez and Jessica Dean are senior nutrition students and Peer Health Educators. They can be reached at

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