Guide to Healthy Eating
Figuring out how to eat healthy can be difficult. Especially when there are so many factors that impact what is healthy for you, specifically. The average person needs to take into account age, body size, and activity level as well as any special health concerns such as diabetes and food allergies when planning their diet. Even ethnicity and location play a role in food selection for optimum health. Planning a healthy menu takes research and common sense.
What constitutes a healthy diet varies from person to person depending on body weight, frame size, body mass index or BMI, and overall health. If you Google "healthy eating" you get over 23 million hits in less than five seconds. No wonder the average consumer is confused about diet!
Food is divvied up into food groups and placed into a food pyramid. Food pyramids depict pictorially the four main food groups and each group's importance in maintaining a healthy diet. The base of the pyramid are your grains, the next level contains fruit and vegetables, the next meat and dairy, and the top all those oils and sweets that need to be used sparingly. The food pyramid is a guideline for healthy food choices.
Your base level contains your cereals, rice, breads and pastas. You should get around six to eleven servings a day. Not difficult as many of us fill a bowl of cereal with two to three times the recommended serving amount each morning. What about the two slices of bread on that sandwich you had for lunch? Two servings. That plateful of spaghetti? Most of us fill our nine or ten-inch plates full of pasta and cover it with meat sauce. That often equals four or five servings of grain products!
Vegetables and Fruit
The next level up the pyramid is your fruits and vegetables. Experts recommend at least three to five servings of vegetables each day and two to four servings of fruit. When it comes to vegetables, pick the deepest color vegetables you can for your richest vitamins and antioxidants. Pick romaine over iceberg lettuce. Pick spinach over corn. Many vegetables also contain starch and are high on the glycemic index. Most servings equal around one-half cup.
When you choose fruit, choose fruit based on the needs of your diet. Oranges for vitamin C, bananas for potassium. One small apple is one serving.
Meat and dairy products fall onto the second level from the top, meaning that you need less servings of these foods to obtain the recommended daily allowances of these foods in your diet.
You only need two or three servings of dairy each day. More if you are a young child. Milk, yogurt, and cheese all fall into the milk or dairy group. Cheese is one of those exceptions that also falls into the meat group. So if you eat a serving of cheese, you can count it as milk or meat.
Meat and Alternatives
Two or three servings of meat is all you need each day. Meat can come in the form of animal meats, legumes or beans, tofu, nuts, and cheese. A portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. Most steaks you grill for the summer are at least two, if not three or four servings of the meat group.
The top of the pyramid are those oils and sweets that you want to eat sparingly. Pick olive oil over peanut oil or vegetable oil. Choose to eat dark chocolate over milk chocolate for maximizing antioxidant action. Just remember to use fats, oils and sweets now and again. And remember that some fats are better than others. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish. Watch your saturated fat intake over your unsaturated fat intake.
Determining Portion Size
Now that you know what to eat, how much do you eat? What are the size portions? For a general guideline, use your hand: a finger length is about the diameter of one fruit serving or the diameter of a tennis ball; your fist is about one cup or two servings of cooked vegetables or pasta; to measure one teaspoon, use the tip of your thumb as a great guesstimate, and your whole thumb as about two tablespoons of food or about a half-ounce of cheese. Your palm is roughly the size of a deck of cards or about three ounces of meat.
Will following these guidelines give you good health and a perfect weight? Well, they will grant you better health and a healthy weight for your age and body type. You will get the recommended daily requirements that your body needs to maintain good health. By eating right you'll be improving the rate at which your body can repair tissue, build muscle and fiber, and improve eyesight and strong bones. Just keep in mind that moderation and knowledge are key to staying healthy.
Disclaimer: The information provided within this site is not meant to be a substitute for a medical doctor's opinion. This site is for informational purposes ONLY. Please check with your medical practitioner before any type of treatment or prevention method is started.