Eating a healthy diet will increase your energy and improve your physical health. It provides the necessary nutrients for your body to remain chemically balanced and maintain your mental and emotional health. Eating well helps you maintain a healthy weight for height and body structure. A healthy diet will improve your overall quality of life: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Develop healthy eating habits and you will feel the benefits immediately. See My Pyramid
to develop a personalized eating plan.
Become familiar with the food pyramid and eat appropriate proportions of each food group. The USDA published a food pyramid
in 1992 that provided suggestions for the number of servings of each food group to be eaten daily. These suggestions were:
- 5+ servings of vegetables each day, particularly dark-colored and leafy vegetables.
- 5+ servings of fresh fruit or frozen fruit each day.
- 2-3 servings of protein: meat, fish, eggs, poultry, beans, nuts.
- 2-3 servings of milk and milk products such as cheese and yogurt.
- 6-11 servings of grain, especially whole grains.
- 8 glasses of water.
- Occasional use of fats, oils, and sugar products.
The Harvard School of Public Health published a Revised Food Pyramid in 2005. These new recommendations for dietary intake include recent research, especially in the areas of grain and oil intake. The revised recommendations are:
- The foundation of the pyramid is daily exercise and weight control.
- The second layer of the pyramid consists of two sections: 1) whole grains at almost all meals, including whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice, and 2) Plant oils including: olive, canola, soybean, corn, sunflower, peanut oils.
- The third layer includes two parts: 1) vegetables - In abundance; and 2) fruits - 2-3 times a day.
- The fourth layer is nuts and beans: 1-3 times per day.
- The 5th layer is fish, poultry, and eggs: 0-2 times a day.
- The 6th layer is dairy or calcium supplements: 1-2 times a day.
- The 7th layer - the smallest, uppermost tip of the pyramid is separated from the rest of the pyramid by a divide which states "use sparingly." This layer includes two parts: 1) red meat and butter and 2) white bread, white rice, white pasta, potatoes, soda, and sweets.
An important suggestion for your diet is to increase the quantity of fruits and vegetables included in your diet and make sure that you eat a variety of colors. Different colors of fruits and vegetables provide different nutrients. Each color offers specific medical benefits, decreasing your susceptibility to illnesses and diseases.
Switching to low-fat or fat-free and watching your sugar intake are important strategies for you to maintain physical, mental, and emotional health. If you struggle with your weight or have overeaten in the past as a coping mechanism, it is not suggested that you "diet." Instead change daily habits regarding eating, and view your eating style as a lifetime habit. If you exercise daily and eat healthily, you will be able to reach and maintain your ideal weight. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water each day. Eight glasses of water wil keep your system from being dehydrated and will enhance your energy.
In The Complete Idiot's Guide to Total Nutrition (2003), Joy Bauer emphasizes the keys to successful eating:
- Variety - she discusses the body's need for a variety of vitamins and minerals that are provided by different fruits, vegetables, and grains. She suggests that you try a new food each day. Trying new cookbooks and ethnic foods also provide variety in your diet. Your grocery store's produce section offers a huge variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Moderation - no food group is completely off limits. Eating an occasional dessert does not require feeling guilty afterwards. Limit your intake; in other words, eat it in moderation, do not avoid it completely. Even an occasional candy bar or hot fudge sundae is a nice treat (unless you have a medical diagnosis that forbids it). Moderation also refers to limiting your food portions.
- Balance - be sure to balance the food group, not eat ten portions of one and one portion of another vital food group. Balancing your meals provides the greatest nutritional benefits.
Make sure to schedule your meals and eat throughout the day. If you skip breakfast, your energy will be depleted and your mood affected. Your body requires energy to run (like a car needs gas), and food is the energy your body needs.
The following sites offer additional information and suggestions:
Dietary Guidelines for Americans