USDA unveils new online weight planning tool

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) have partnered to add the NIH Body Weight Planner to USDA’s SuperTracker online tool as a goal-setting resource to help people achieve and stay at a healthy weight. Created in 2011, the SuperTracker tool empowers people to build a healthier diet, manage weight, and rUSDAeduce risk of chronic disease. Users can determine what and how much to eat; track foods, physical activities, and weight; and personalize with goal setting, virtual coaching, and journaling. With science-based technology drawing on years of research, the Body Weight Planner will enable SuperTracker’s more than 5.5 million registered users to tailor their plans to reach a goal weight during a specific timeframe, and maintain that weight afterward.

The math model behind the Body Weight Planner, an online tool published by NIH in 2011, was created to accurately forecast how body weight changes when people alter their diet and exercise habits. This capability was validated using data from multiple controlled studies in people.

“We originally intended the Body Weight Planner as a research tool, but so many people wanted to use it for their own weight management that we knew we needed to adapt it with more information about how to achieve a healthy lifestyle,” said Kevin Hall, Ph.D., who led creation of the Planner and is a senior investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the NIH. “The Planner is a natural fit within the SuperTracker as it lets people accurately determine how many calories and how much exercise is needed to meet their personal weight-management goals.”

The Planner’s calculations reflect the discovery that the widely accepted paradigm that reducing 3,500 calories will shed one pound of weight does not account for slowing of metabolism as people change their diet and physical activities. More recently, the math model was further validated using data from a two-year calorie restriction study of 140 people. With those data, Hall and colleagues showed the model can also provide accurate measurements of calorie intake changes by tracking people’s weight. Researchers are examining how to apply this method for public use.

“We are pleased to offer a variety of interactive tools to support Americans in making healthy lifestyle changes,” said Angie Tagtow, executive director of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, which created and manages SuperTracker. “The NIH Body Weight Planner helps consumers make a plan to reach their goals on their timeline, and SuperTracker helps them achieve it.”

More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. Maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent complications related to overweight and obesity such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.

“NIH’s collaboration with USDA allows the public to quickly reap the benefits of the latest medical research results,” said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. “Sharing resources and expertise lets us get out important information as efficiently as possible, empowering people to take charge of their weight and their health.”

The NIDDK, a component of the NIH, conducts and supports research on diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutrition and obesity; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. Spanning the full spectrum of medicine and afflicting people of all ages and ethnic groups, these diseases encompass some of the most common, severe and disabling conditions affecting Americans. For more information about the NIDDK and its programs, see http://www.niddk.nih.gov.

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Whose plate is turning “one” today? Yours!

In case you didn’t know, today is a special day: Happy 1st Birthday, ChooseMyPlate.Gov!

While I haven’t personally been utilizing this great resource, a cursory look at the website today has impressed me. With a clean, user-friendly interface for the Internet surfer, you can learn about all of your basic food groups: Fruit, veggies, grains, and protein foods, as well as oils and dairy. They give you an idea on how much should be in your plate of each, how to measure them, and the health benefits of each, among other helpful tips. The site also has some great tabs with other related information regarding physical activity (how to be more active, and why), weight management tips/tools and resources (BMI calculator, calorie burning charts to help you keep focused, etc), healthy eating tips, and a helpful little chart regarding empty calorie foods. Empty calories are foods high in energy-providing¬†calories from solid fats and/or added sugars, but contain little to no nutritional value. I even saved this chart to my computer, myself.

Good stuff.

While the website itself is great for navigating your nutrition choices, the USDA has certainly established its presence on all manner of social media, as well. Want to get more interactive with your plate? Take a photo of your ChooseMyPlate inspired meal, and post it in their Flickr Pool¬†(this actually excites me a little, where is my camera??). Want nutrition and food-related news from the government and legislative side? Like the USDA’s page on Facebook. Want tips and healthy eating reminders and resources? Head on over to their Twitter page.

And then there’s the USDA on YouTube, with sundry videos on everything from new food safety cell phone apps to new endeavors taken on by the USDA to help consumers eat, and shop, healthier.

Talk about a cornucopia of information for the nutritionally ambitious. So head on over to wish ChooseMyPlate a happy birthday, and while you’re at it, see what they have to offer. You might learn a thing or two you didn’t know that you didn’t know about your dinner plate.

Eat well, everyone!