Now that you're 20, you may be too busy worrying about your upcoming term paper or exam, or your new job to think about eating a balanced diet. But making the right food choices can help improve your energy levels and help you get through this transitional part of your life. A balanced diet means your body is getting the right amount of calories, protein, vitamins and minerals to maintain a healthy weight and support the normal functions of your body.
Eating the right amount of calories each day is an important part of a balanced diet because it is key to helping you maintain a healthy weight. Your daily calorie needs depend on your activity level. A 20-year old male who does not exercise can maintain a healthy weight consuming 2,400 to 2,600 calories a day. A 20-year old who engages in moderate activity, the equivalent of walking 1.5 to 3 miles a day, can maintain a healthy weight consuming 2,600 to 2,800 calories a day. A very active 20-year old, someone who exercises to the equivalent of walking more than 3 miles a day, can maintain a healthy weight consuming 3,000 calories a day. These calorie needs are suggestions, and you should consult your physician to help you determine your specific calorie needs.
Grains are an important source of energy, and they help you meet your daily B-vitamin, iron, magnesium and selenium needs. Whole grains also provide fiber, which delays digestion and provides a more lasting source of energy. Depending on your calorie needs, you should include 8 oz. eight to 10 oz. of grains in your balanced diet. A 1 oz. serving of grain equals one slice of bread, 1 cup of whole-grain ready-to-eat cereal, 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta or five whole-grain crackers.
Most men do not eat enough fruits, according to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Fruits are low in calories and a good source of vitamin C and vitamin A, both important nutrients that help protect you from getting sick. Aim for 2 to 2 1/2 cups of fruit a day on your balanced diet plan. A 1 cup serving of fruit equals a small apple, a large orange or banana, 1 cup of cut-up fruit or 1 cup of juice.
As with fruits, men in their 20s tend to skimp on their vegetable intake. Vegetables also provide nutrients that help to keep your body healthy, including fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. You need three or four cups of vegetables a day on your balanced meal plan. Try to include a variety of vegetables to vary your nutrient intake.
Meat and Beans
Meat and beans provide your body with protein and iron. Adequate intakes of iron help support your energy levels. Aim for 6.5 to 7 oz. of meat or beans a day. Men are at a greater risk of developing heart disease than women, according to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, making it even more important that you include more lean meats in your diet. Good choices include fish, poultry, beef tenderloin and pork loin. Beans are naturally low in fat and a good source of fiber. A 1/4-cup serving of cooked beans equals 1 oz. of meat.
Dairy products are an important source of calcium and vitamin D, both important nutrients for bone health. Getting adequate intakes of these essential nutrients now helps ensure healthy bones for life. You need 3 cups of dairy products a day on your balanced diet plan. Choose low-fat and non-fat dairy products to limit your fat intake. A 1 cup serving of dairy equals 1 cup of 1 percent or nonfat milk, 1 cup of nonfat yogurt or 1 1/2 oz. of low-fat cheese.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture; Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010; Balancing Calories to Manage Weight
- USDA's ChooseMyPlate.gov: Food Intake Patterns
- "New York Times": Balanced Diet
- American Dietetic Association: Nutrition for Young Men
- USDA's ChooseMyPlate.gov: Food Groups
- Palo Alto Medical Foundation: Male Diet and Nutrition