Developing healthy eating habits isn't as confusing or as restrictive
as many people imagine. You can view healthy eating as an opportunity
to expand your range of choices by trying foods-especially vegetables,
grains, or fruits-that you don't normally eat. A healthy diet
doesn't have to mean eating foods that are bland or unappealing.
The following basic guidelines are what you need to know to construct
a healthy diet.
Limit your total fat intake. Fat should supply less than
30% of your total daily calories. Limit your intake of fat by
having a semi-vegetarian diet. Choose lean meats, light-meat
poultry without the skin, fish, and low-fat dairy products.
In addition, cut back on vegetable oils and butteror foods
made with theseas well as on mayonnaise, salad dressings,
and fried foods.
Limit your intake of saturated fat. This is the kind
of fat, found mostly in animal products, that boosts blood cholesterol
levels and has other adverse health effects. It should supply
less than one-third of the calories derived from fat.
Keep your cholesterol intake below 300 milligrams per day.
Cholesterol is found only in animal products, such as meats,
poultry, dairy products, and egg yolks.
Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates
should contribute at least 55% of your total daily calories.
To help meet this requirement, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
and six or more servings of grains (preferably whole grains)
or legumes daily. This will help you obtain the 20 to 30 grams
of dietary fiber you need each day, as well as provide important
vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals essential
to good health).
Avoid too much sugar. Besides contributing to tooth decay,
sugar is a source of "empty" calories, and many foods that are
high in sugar are also high in fat.
Make sure to include green, orange, and yellow fruits and
vegetablessuch as broccoli, carrots, cantaloupe, and
citrus fruits. The antioxidants and other nutrients in these
foods are regarded as increasingly important in helping protect
against developing certain types of cancer and other diseases.
Eat five or more servings a day.
Maintain a moderate protein intake. Protein should make
up about 12% of your total daily calories. Choose low-fat sources.
Eat a variety of foods. Don't try to fill your nutrient
requirements by eating the same foods day in, day out. It is
possible that not every essential nutrient has been identified,
and so eating a wide assortment of foods helps to ensure that
you will get all the necessary nutrients. In addition, this
will limit your exposure to any pesticides or toxic substances
that may be present in one particular food.
Limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,400 milligrams
per day. This is equivalent to the amount of sodium in a
little more than a teaspoon of salt. Cut back on your use of
salt in cooking and on the table; avoid salty foods; check food
labels for the inclusion of ingredients containing sodium.
Maintain an adequate calcium intake. Calcium is essential
for strong bones and teeth. Get your calcium from low-fat sources,
such as skim milk and low-fat yogurt. If you can't get the optimal
amount from foods, take supplements.
Try to get your vitamins and minerals from foods, not
from supplements (with the exceptions listed below). Supplements
cannot substitute for a healthy diet, which supplies nutrients
and other compounds besides vitamins and minerals. Foods also
provide the "synergy" that many nutrients require to be efficiently
used in the body.
Consider taking supplements of the antioxidant vitamins E
(200 to 800 IU daily) and C (250 to 500 milligrams daily).
Even if you eat a healthy diet, it's unlikely you will get these
amounts of E and C. Also consider taking a basic daily multivitamin/mineral
supplement, especially if you are a woman of child-bearing age
(who needs extra folic acid, a B vitamin) or over age 60 (because
of decreased nutrient absorption by the body).
Maintain a desirable weight. Balance energy (calorie)
intake with energy output. Eating a low-fat diet will help you
maintainor loweryour weight, as will regular exercise.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. That is one
drink a day for women, two a day for men. A drink is defined
as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof
spirits. Excess alcohol consumption leads to a variety of health
problems. And alcoholic beverages can add many calories to your
diet without supplying nutrients.