A healthy diet is one that:
What are the basics of a healthy diet?
Diet gurus have cooked up dozens of detailed, complex eating plans that require computer programs or cards to help track your food choices. But you know what? It doesn't have to be that complicated. Here are three simple guidelines that can help you eat well:
How much should I eat?
- Eat mostly grains, vegetables, and fruits. These are a big part of MyPyramid so make them a big part of your diet too. These three food groups are bursting with nutrients and are usually low in fat.
- Think in color to help you choose a variety of foods. By eating a mix of food types, colors, textures, and flavors every day, you're more likely to get all the nutrients you need—and have some yummy meals!
- Go easy on fat (especially saturated fat, like butter), cholesterol, sugar, and sodium (salt). Nutrition Facts Label on food packages tell you the amounts of these in each serving of food. back to top
suggests a range of servings
for each food group. For example, a girl needs six to 11 servings of grains a day. That may sound like a lot of food, but a serving is smaller than you might think. If you fill a bowl with cereal, you're probably eating two or three servings. Most teenage girls need about 2,200 calories a day. You can probably get this by eating:
- nine servings of grains, like rice, corn, and whole wheat
- four servings of vegetables, like greens, cauliflower, and yams
- three servings of fruit, like pears, dried apricots, and orange juice
- three servings from the milk group, like cheese, skim milk, and yogurt
- two servings from the meat (or protein) group, like chicken, fish, and tofu
But every girl's needs are unique. So you'll want to find your balance. The goal is to eat enough to fuel all your activities but not so much that you go over a healthy weight. If you're an active teen or athlete
, you may need to eat more calories. If you're a vegetarian
, you may need to do a bit of extra planning to get all the nutrients you need from plant-based sources. back to top
What should I do if I want to gain weight?
If your weight is less than a healthy amount, and you want to gain weight, try these tips:
What if I want to lose weight?
- Eat larger portions (more servings) from all the food groups in MyPyramid, except for high-fat foods like ice cream and French fries. Eating extra fat will help you put on weight, but it's not good for your heart.
- Don't limit yourself to three meals a day. Eat healthy snacks throughout the day.
- Save room for the most nutritious foods. Filling up on foods that have few nutrients, like diet soda or candy, won't help you reach a healthy weight.
- Ask your health professional for advice. He or she can help you figure out why you are underweight and make some suggestions that are right for you. back to top
If you're over a healthy weight, and you want to lose a few pounds, try these tips:
- Increase your activity level. Whether it's walking to school or adding strengh training to your usual aerobic workout, you need to burn more calories than you eat. If you already eat a healthy diet, maybe all you need to do to lose some weight is become more active.
- Cut back a little on the number of servings you eat from all the food groups, except for the milk group. Your bones really need the calcium, so instead of cutting a milk serving, switch to skim milk and nonfat or low-fat dairy products. You will notice that for each food group in the Food Guide Pyramid, a range of servings is given. Choosing the smaller number in the range can help you lose weight.
- Steer clear of short-term dieting schemes, including fad diets. They might help you lose a few pounds, but you could harm your body in the process. And those pounds will probably come back when you go back to your regular eating habits.
- Talk with your health professional if you have difficulty reaching a healthy weight for your body. He or she can help you develop a fitness and exercise plan that will pay off. back to top