Eating a healthy diet is key to maintaining your health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has created a food pyramid by which you can measure the correct amount of different types of nutrients to consume on a daily basis. Adhering to these recommendations will result in a balanced diet that helps to prohibit obesity and many other diet-related health problems.
A minimum of three ounces of grains should be eaten on a daily basis. Examples are oats, barley, rice and wheat. Whole grains have more fibre than refined grains. Although refined grains are often enriched with vitamins and iron, whole grains should be eaten more frequently because they contain more fibre. Most adults should eat between 170 and 227g equivalents of grains per day. For example, one slice of bread counts as one ounce.
All vegetables, especially dark green and orange varieties, are vital to a healthy diet. Vegetables may be eaten raw, canned, frozen, cooked or dried. Dark green vegetables include spinach, some types of lettuce and broccoli. Orange vegetables include carrots, squash and sweet potatoes. Other good choices include peas, black beans, tofu and cucumbers. Most adults should consume 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.
Any fruit or 100 per cent fruit juice should be consumed on a daily basis. Fruits may be canned, dried, fresh or frozen. Popular fruits include apples, oranges and bananas. Fruit juice is a good choice, provided it contains no additional flavouring or additives. Most adults should eat between 1.5 and 2 cups of fruit per day.
Milk and cheese are excellent sources of calcium, and there are other ways of consuming it if one is lactose intolerant. Dairy products should be chosen that are low or non-fat. Soy beverages or dairy substitutes contain calcium but are lacking in other important nutrients, which need to be made up elsewhere in your diet. Adults should consume 3 cups of dairy products or substitutes each day.
Meat and Beans
Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dry beans and nuts are important sources of protein. Meat and poultry chosen should be low in fat. Other sources of protein and healthy oils, such as nuts and fish, should be consumed more often for their health benefits. Processed meats should be avoided, as they are high in sodium. Adults should eat between 142 and 184g equivalents of the protein group each day.
Oils from sources such as fish, vegetable oil and nuts are an essential to a diet. Oils from butter, shortening and margarine should be eaten in moderation. A good way to determine the type of oil your are consuming is that "good" oils are liquid at room temperature, while "bad" oils are solid at room temperature. No more than 6 or 7 teaspoons of oil should be eaten per day.
To be sure your daily intake of each food group is equivalent to the recommended amount, consult the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid website.