Eating well, in combination with participating in a regular exercise program, is a positive step you can take to prevent and even reverse some diseases. Though nutrition is a broad science, this article focuses on some of the basics of dietary guidelines, along with how to make healthy choices in your daily food intake and how those choices can influence your ability to be active.
Too often, people associate nutrition and diet with restriction and unappealing options (note that the word “diet” refers to what you eat, not a particular weight loss plan). This article presents a positive view of nutrition and offers suggestions for taking control of your diet to improve how you feel. By providing your body with needed calories and nutrients, you will fully fuel your body for physical activity and exercise, as well as for competition if you are so inclined.
Just as a car needs quality fuel to run smoothly, your body needs a balance of nutrients to function optimally. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides general guidance regarding nutrition for people 2 years of age and older. The Dietary Guidelines provides advice about how good dietary practices can promote health and prevent chronic disease.
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List of Dietary Guidelines
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes the following five guidelines to promote healthy eating:
- Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.
- Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount.
- Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.
- Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
- Support healthy eating patterns for all.
Key recommendations from these dietary guidelines include following a healthy eating pattern that accounts for all foods and beverages within an appropriate calorie level.
A healthy eating pattern includes the following:
- A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, and soy products
A healthy eating pattern limits the following:
- Saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
- Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium.
- If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.
These Guidelines are an excellent place to start on the path to a healthier diet. The next step is to look at the nutrients and distribution you require to meet your energy needs.