USDA dietary guidelines recommend that you include a certain number of servings from each food group in your daily diet. Following these daily intake recommendations can help ensure that your body gets the nutrients it needs every day. Essential food groups include grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and proteins. Eat foods with added sugars or solid fats only after getting the essential foods and as long as you don't exceed your daily caloric needs.
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Fruits provide good sources of dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and folic acid. Fruits and vegetables should take up half of your plate at each meal, according to the USDA. Women ages 19 to 30 and men ages 19 and over should get 2 cups of fruit per day, and women ages 31 and over 1 ½ cups.
Dairy products are important sources of calcium and potassium, and fortified milks and yogurts provide good sources of vitamin D. Men and women ages 19 and over should get 3 cups of dairy per day. Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products whenever possible.
Vegetables contain few calories and little fat, and no cholesterol. Vegetables provide essential nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and iron. Women ages 19 to 50 and men ages 51 and over should eat 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day, women ages 51 and over should eat 2 cups per day and men ages 19 to 50 should get 3 cups per day. Your weekly vegetable intake should include foods from each vegetable subgroup, including dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, starchy vegetables and legumes.
Grains, especially whole grains, contain high levels of dietary fiber and other nutrients, including iron, magnesium and B vitamins. Women ages 19 and up and men ages 51 and up should eat 3 ounce equivalents of grains per day, men ages 19 to 30 should eat 4 ounce equivalents and men ages 31 to 50 should get 3, 1 ounce equivalents. Examples of 1 ounce equivalents include one regular slice of bread, half an English muffin, one-half cup cooked oatmeal or one-half cup cooked rice. One large bagel provides 4 ounce equivalents of grain. Whole grains should account for at least half of your daily grain intake.
Foods in the protein group include meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, nuts, seeds and eggs. These foods are sources of iron, B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc and magnesium. Men ages 51 and over and women ages 19 to 30 should eat 5 ½ ounce equivalents of protein per day, women ages 31 and over should eat 5 ounce equivalents per day, men ages 19 to 30 should eat 6 ½ ounce equivalents per day and men ages 31 to 50 should eat 6 ounce equivalents per day. Examples of 1 ounce equivalent of protein include a 1-oz serving of meat, fish or poultry, an one-quarter cup serving of dry beans or peas or a whole egg.
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