If you're working to maintain your weight or lose weight, having a daily calorie goal and tracking calories throughout the day can help you reach and sustain your desired weight. Eating a healthy, balanced diet ensures you're getting plenty of nutrients to meet your daily needs while dieting. You'll need to eat fewer calories than your body burns in a day to lose weight. In addition to restricting your calorie intake, regular exercise helps you attain your goal weight.
According to ChooseMyPlate.gov, you should eat about 6 ounces of grains on an 1,800-calorie-per-day diet. Grains provide healthy, complex carbohydrates needed to supply you with energy. Make at least 3 ounces of the total whole-grain foods, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa or oats. These minimally processed grains provide more fiber and nutrients per serving than processed, or refined, carbohydrates such as white bread, regular pasta and white rice. Whole grains are also good sources of essential B vitamins, vitamin E, antioxidants and minerals.
Fruits and Vegetables
Aim for at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and 1.5 cups of fruit on an 1,800 calorie diet. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables in different colors throughout the day and week helps you get a diversity of nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories but high in volume. So they help you feel full while watching your calorie intake. They're also a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants called phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, contained in fruits and vegetables may even reduce your risk of developing certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer.
Calcium-rich foods are another important component of a healthy diet. You should get the equivalent of 3 cups of low-fat dairy on an 1,800-calorie diet. These servings can come from drinking milk or eating cheese, yogurt or calcium-fortified foods. If you're lactose-intolerant or allergic to milk, use dairy-free calcium-fortified foods such as soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, soy yogurt and tofu. You need calcium to maintain strong bones and reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. These calcium-rich foods also supply you with essential vitamin D and potassium.
Your body relies on dietary protein to build and maintain healthy cells, muscles, skin, organs and other body tissues. It's also essential for most body fluids and proper digestion. Aim for 5 ounces of protein-rich food per day on an 1,800-calorie diet. That amount should equate to roughly 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight per day, per the Institute of Medicine recommendations. Choose lean proteins whenever possible to limit your intake of saturated fat and calories. Good options include boneless skinless chicken breast, fish, beans, peas and nuts.
Fats, Sugars and Sodium
ChooseMyPlate.gov notes you should also limit oil use to 5 teaspoons per day and added fat and sugar intake to less than 160 calories per day. Use liquid vegetable oils, such as olive oil, canola oil or safflower oil, as opposed to butter, lard or shortening, in order to reduce saturated fat intake. Limiting saturated fat intake prevents high cholesterol and heart disease. Sodium should also be restricted to 2,300 milligrams per day to maintain a healthy blood pressure.