What is a Healthy Eating Plan?
For optimum health and weight, a diet plan should conform to the following guidelines:
- It should be balanced, meaning
it should include foods from all food groups.
Healthy Eating Means Including All Food Groups
In simple terms, foods may be divided into 6 main food groups. (1) Fruits and vegetables, (2) grains, (3) dairy foods, (4) meat, poultry and fish, (5) seeds, nuts and beans, (6) fats and oils.
Each main food group is the most important contributor of at least one nutrient while being a useful source of many other nutrients. As each food group typically provides a range of macronutrients and micronutrients in significant amounts, it is important to incorporate all food groups within your daily diet.
Healthy Eating Means Choosing Nutrient Dense Foods
A nutrient-dense food is one that includes substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) but relatively few calories. Food products that are low in nutrient density are ones that typically contain calories but only small amounts of vitamins and minerals. If we consume too many foods or drinks that are low in nutrient density, chances are we will not obtain sufficient nutrition and we will gain weight, especially if we lead a sedentary lifestyle. To avoid the health dangers of this combination of malnutrition and weight gain, restrict your intake of very sugary foods, regular sodas, saturated and trans-fats.
Although nutrient deficiency (mineral or vitamin deficiencies) is common throughout the population of North America, one nutrient - sodium - is consumed to excess. In fact, the average American diet contains at least 3 times the recommended daily amount of sodium (2,400 milligrams per day). Hardly surprising, since 1 tsp of salt contains 2,300 milligrams of sodium. A high intake of sodium is associated with hypertension (raised blood pressure) an important health predictor of heart attacks and stroke.
Healthy Eating Involves a Correct Calorie For Your Weight
Excessive consumption of high-calorie foods, aggravated by the growth in food servings (eg. super-sizing in restaurants) as well as over-abundance of vending machines and food outlets is a major cause of the surge in obesity and obesity-related illness rates in adults, children and teenagers. A healthy eating plan should address this problem of overeating by providing enough calories in order to maintain the correct energy balance.
See table below for energy requirements based on Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) from the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes macronutrients report, 2002, calculated by gender, age, and activity level for median height and weight for ages up to 18 years yielding a BMI of 21.5 for adult females and 22.5 for adult males.
Table 1. Average Calorie Needs
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