You surely want to live a long and healthy life, and paying careful attention to your diet can go a long way to help achieve this goal. A well-balanced diet includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats. Eating a variety of foods in modest amounts and good proportions can lower your risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer. As an added bonus, it can help you manage your weight and help keep you looking and feeling your best.
Following the MyPyramid food plan, based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, is a good starting point to a balanced diet. The plan divides foods into seven groups and recommends daily amounts of each group for women at all ages and activity levels. The suggested amounts include: 3- to 4-oz. of grain, at least half from whole grains; 1.5 to 2 cups of fruits, with only juices that are 100 percent fruit; 5.5- to 6.5-oz. of meats and beans; 3 cups of dairy products, preferably low-fat or fat-free; 5 to 7 tsp of mostly unsaturated, healthy fats, from fish, nut and vegetable oils; and 130 to 510 discretionary calories, depending on age and activity level.
MyPyramid puts special emphasis on vegetables, recommending 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. It divides them into five subgroups, with weekly recommended amounts for each: 2 to 3 cups of dark green; 1.5 to 2 cups of orange; 2.5 to 6 cups of starchy; 2.5 to 3 cups of dry beans and peas; and 5.5 to 7 cups of other vegetables.
Eating a healthy diet is one of seven steps toward ideal cardiovascular health recommended by the American Heart Association. It suggests at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables, at least 3-oz. equivalent servings of whole grains rich in fiber and no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. It also says you should take in at least four servings of nuts, seeds and legumes, seven ounces of oily fish and no more than two servings of processed meats per week, with no more than 36 oz. of sugar-sweetened drinks. You should also limit saturated fats to less than 7 percent of your total caloric intake, according to the AHA.
A worldwide network of nutrition professionals, registered dietitians and other food professionals in the American Dietetic Association also provides nutrition guidelines For adults, it recommends at least 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day, and suggests that women should eat 5 to 6 oz. of protein, three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy and at least 3 oz. of whole grains per day. Adding at least 5 oz. of whole grains, 4,700 mg of potassium and at least 38 g of fiber per day; and two to three servings of fish per week is also a goad goal for all adults, according to the ADA.
The old adage "You are what you eat" seems to be mostly true, according to these organizations whose work focuses on diet and health. You total intake of calories should match your activity level, but the balance among protein, fats and carbs, and the type of each that you choose, can make a big difference in your health and sense of well-being. For more information or answers to any questions, discuss a well-balanced diet with your family doctor or a registered dietitian, who can help you design an eating plant best suited for your body and lifestyle.
- roast dinner image by hazel proudlove from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.