Healthy Eating Plans
Most of us want to live healthy, productive lives. Although you can't control all of the factors that affect your health, most people do get to choose what goes in their mouth, and daily food intake can have a tremendous affect on your ability to live long and feel well.
Simple is best.
One of the fundamental principles of healthy eating is that the plainer, unadorned foods are better for you than more richly appointed dishes and processed and packaged foods.
A simple way to look at this method of healthy meal planning is to make sure each meal includes servings from all of the food groups. Your plate should have some protein foods, some foods from the fruit/vegetable group, some grain foods (preferable whole grain), a bit of dairy and a small amount of healthy fats.
Keeping it in proportion
Fruits, vegetables and grains should take up a proportionately larger portion of your plate than proteins, dairy and fats. If you get in the habit of looking at your plate before you eat, and see foods from all of the groups with a colorful array of vegetables and fruits, you will have gone a long way towards eating healthy.
Making snacks count
A thumbnail rule for snacks is to include a carb food with a protein food. In this way you will receive a full complement of nutrients that make a positive contribution to your nutritional status for the day. In addition, by eating both protein and carbs you will find that the snack will keep you satisfied longer, as your blood sugar remains more stable.
In general, if you think a food is bad for you--if it is highly processed, has lots of sugar, fat, or has no nutritional value--you are probably right. If you think it is good for you -- whole, fresh, colorful, high in fiber, lightly cooked--in other words, real food - it most likely is.
Power in the plan
In case you need some help, here is a daily healthy eating plan that is recommended by the USDA for people on a 2,000-calorie diet, which includes many adults. Keep in mind, these amounts should be portioned into meals and snacks throughout the day.
*Eat 2 cups of fruit each day.
*Eat 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day.
*Eat 6 oz. of grains each day.
*Eat 5 1/2 oz. of meat and legumes each day.
*Eat 3 cups from the milk group each day.
*Limit yourself to 6 tsp. from the oils group each day.
*Eat 267 calories of discretionary (meaning you choose!) each day.
Making the plan your own
If you are an active person, and need more than 2,000 calories, you can use this healthy eating plan as a basis, adding some servings across the board to each group. Conversely, if you need fewer calories because you are not very active, you can limit the discretionary calories and choose lower-fat versions of dairy products and meats.
Making the plan even better
While this is a good basic plan, there are some choices you can make to enhance this healthy eating plan, such as choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and good quality fats.
Some health experts recommend that you buy at least some organic products, especially eggs, meat and dairy products.
Making it easier
If you don't want to be as precise as this plan, another way to approach healthy eating is to think in turns of food groups on your plate. This method has recently been adopted by the USDA with their new "MyPlate" program that replaces the Food Pyramid Guide that you may have heard about.
Visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov for more information.
Of course, no healthy eating plan will work well if you don't understand basic nutrition. You need to know what protein foods are in order to include them in your meals and snacks. You also need to know about serving sizes, especially if you are trying to maintain a healthy weight.
Please take the time to learn the basics of healthy eating so that you can make healthy meal plans on a regular basis.
For more information on specific nutrients, click on the following links:
Plan to be healthy!
Regardless of which of the healthy eating plans you choose, whatever you do to improve your daily food choices will reap long-term rewards in wellness and longevity.