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The Basics of a Healthy Diet

Healthy Diet Basics

Eating a healthy diet is one way that we can improve our health and well being. A healthy diet can improve our moods and energy levels, and provide the necessary vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function. Additionally, some studies show that healthy foods stave off diseases like cancer.

This article will address the basics of a healthy diet for active adults whose bodies require 2,000 calories per day. Everyone’s body is different, but these guidelines will get all of us headed in the right direction.

In June 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released MyPlate as a healthy diet replacement for the food pyramid. MyPlate, like the food pyramid, helps guide us as we construct our plates at meal time.

Unlike the food pyramid, which showed the relative number of servings to eat everyday of each food group, MyPlate shows us how much of our plate should be covered with fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, and dairy at each meal. MyPlate is a more visual interpretation of a healthy diet. At its heart, MyPlate and all healthy diet recommendations are about balance and portion control.

The USDA recommends that people whose bodies require 2,000 calories a day should strive to eat these daily servings:

  • 6 ounces of grains with at least 3 ounces of whole grains
  • 2 cups of vegetables
  • 2 cups of fruit
  • 3 cups of milk, soy milk, or yogurt or an appropriate serving of cheese (1 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese)
  • 5 ounces of protein or an appropriate serving of eggs (1 egg), nuts (1/2 ounce), or dried beans and legumes (1/4 of a cup)
  • 6 teaspoons of oils

When we choose dairy and protein sources, we should strive to choose lean cuts of meat (skinless chicken, lean pork like pork chops and tenderloin, or lean cuts of beef like sirloin steak or 93% ground beef) and low-fat dairy products (skim or 1% milk and low- or reduced-fat cheese).

Protein sources like tofu and dried beans and legumes (black, kidney, garbanzo, and lentils) are naturally low in fat and high in protein and fiber. These foods also provide a healthy and low-cost alternative to meat sources and fit nicely into a healthy diet.

In addition to these foods that we should eat, we are encouraged to limit our intake of added sugars and salts. Added sugars provide no nutrients and are what the USDA calls “empty calories.”

Some salt is necessary for our bodies to maintain an optimal fluid balance. Additionally, iodized salt provides iodine, a necessary mineral also found in seafood. Too much salt, however, can encourage high blood pressure.

Drinking enough water is also important to maintaining a healthy diet. The Institute of Medicine has argued that men should consume 13 cups of total beverages (this includes tea, coffee, soda, sports drinks, and water) and women should consume 9 cups of total beverages per day. Though the Institute of Medicine includes all beverages, water is the best beverage to include in a healthy diet.

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