Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Nutrition Guidelines: Getting Started

With so many diets and quick weight-loss promises on the market today, it's hard to remember what a healthy diet really looks like. Start over again with the basics of good nutrition.

By Diana Rodriguez
Medically reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH

Diet pills, fad diets, foods to boycott, foods to eat exclusively. With all the crazy diet advice out there, do you even remember the basics of healthy eating? Get rid of the clutter when it comes to diets, and use basic good nutrition guidelines and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Pyramid as your framework for healthy eating.

Food Groups and Healthy Nutrition: Today’s Food Pyramid

So how do we know what healthy meals should look like? The USDA is responsible for publishing nutritional guidelines for healthy eating based on ongoing research. While most of the general recommendations haven't changed over the years, there have been a few adjustments.

One change is a slight increase in the recommended number of fruits and vegetables. Women need at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day, while men need at least nine. "We just know there's so much good stuff in fruits and vegetables," including essential nutrients and fiber, says Sandra Meyerowitz, MPH, RD, a nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Works in Louisville, Ky. Carbohydrates are also an important part of a healthy diet, contrary to many popular fad diets being touted today.

Food Groups and Healthy Nutrition: USDA Recommendations

Here are details about the USDA's recommended nutritional guidelines to follow for a healthy eating plan:

* Focus on fruits and vegetables: Get seven to nine fruits and vegetables each day.
* Go for low-fat dairy: Consume at least three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk each day or the equivalent in cheese, yogurt, or other calcium-rich foods.
* Choose whole grains: Get at least six to eight servings of whole grains each day.
* Steer clear of trans and saturated fats, sodium (salt), sugars, and cholesterol: *Limit fat to only about 20 to 35 percent of total calorie intake and avoid trans and saturated fats.
* Choose lean proteins: Get about 15 percent of your calories from chicken without the skin, fish, beans, and legumes.
* Food Groups and Healthy Nutrition: Guidelines to Get You Going

Here are some other tips to help you develop a healthy eating plan. If you keep these general nutrition rules in mind, you'll be on the right track toward healthy eating for life:

* Pay attention to portion control; quantities depend on whether you’re trying to lose or maintain weight. In most restaurants, an appetizer serving is often closer to an appropriate serving size than an entrĂ©e.
* Always drink plenty of water.
* Vary your food choices to make sure you get a wide variety of vitamins and other nutrients and to avoid boredom.
* Know the recommended daily calorie intake for your age, weight, height, activity level, and gender.
* Don't deprive yourself of foods you love; just enjoy them in moderation.

Start thinking about the basics of diet and nutrition again, and make nutritional guidelines part of your everyday life. It won't be a diet, it won't be a fad, and it definitely won't be temporary. It will be your new healthy lifestyle, and when you think, "What's for dinner?" the answer will naturally be a healthy choice.

Last Updated: 07/21/2009
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