A healthy diet gives your body the nutrients needed to maintain proper energy levels and to achieve appropriate physical development and growth. Knowing exactly what constitutes a healthy diet can get you started down the path of healthy living. Learn the facts about what foods to chow down on and what foods to shirk in your everyday diet, so you can maximize your chances of leading a healthy, productive life.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all of the major food groups: dairy, meat and beans, vegetables, fruits, and grains. Dairy products include cheese, milk and yogurt. Members of the meat and bean group include legumes, beef, pork, chicken, fish, nuts and seeds. Carrots, broccoli, green beans, spinach, tomatoes and sweet potatoes are all commonly consumed vegetables. Fruits include such perennial favorites as bananas, apples, peaches, plums and grapes. In addition to bread products, the grain group also encompasses rice, grits, cereals and pasta.
In the world of healthy eating, not all foods are created equal. Opt for healthier food choices from the various food groups, maximizing your nutrient intake while limiting total fat and cholesterol in your diet. Decrease excess fat in your daily diet by sticking with low-fat dairy products. Go for lean protein sources in the meat and bean group like kidney beans, fish, and boneless, skinless chicken breast. Opt for whole grain bread products whenever possible. Not only do whole grains help you manage your weight, but they also can lower your risk of developing various chronic health conditions like diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Portion size plays a key role in helping you achieve a healthy diet, without consuming so much excess nutrition that your body converts the energy to fat -- ultimately leading to unnecessary weight gain. In many cases, what you count as a portion of food may actually equal two or three servings. The number of food servings that you consume from each food group varies greatly, depending upon factors such as your age and health status. In general, the average adult consuming 2,000 calories per day should strive for 2 cups of fruit, 2 ½ cups vegetables, 5.5 oz. of meat and beans, 3 cups of dairy products and, minimally, 3 oz. of whole grains daily.
Your body needs a certain daily amount of fat and salt to stay healthy, but overdoing it could cause long-term health problems. Try not to consume more than 1 tsp. salt each day. Similarly, your total fat intake on any given day should not exceed approximately 20 to 35 percent of your daily caloric intake. Aim for the bulk of that fat content to come from healthy unsaturated fats, like those found in fish and nuts, cites MedlinePlus. Make it a habit to avoid processed foods to help lower your daily fat and sodium intake.
On a limited food budget, it can be a challenge figuring out exactly how to eat a variety of healthy foods as part of your everyday diet, without going overboard. Get the biggest bang for your nutritional dollars by knowing which inexpensive foods are good for your health. Consider purchasing whole grain oatmeal instead of high-dollar whole grain breads or cereals. An affordably-priced whole grain product, oatmeal can play a starring role in your breakfast; you can also use it to make snacks like oatmeal cookies and main dishes like meatloaf. As a fiber-rich protein choice, pinto and kidney beans cost little compared to expensive meats like steak or chicken breast. Don’t forget to frequent farmers’ markets for inexpensively-priced fresh fruits and vegetables. As an alternative, you can even start a vegetable garden in your backyard.
- The Whole Grain Council: What are the Health Benefits?
- “Textbook of Basic Nursing”; Caroline Bunker Rosdahl & Mary T. Kowalski; 2007