Let’s face it, eating a balanced diet isn’t necessarily at the top of our priority list. The official United States guideline to a health diet changes from year to year. While many Americans do work on eating a balanced diet, many others have fallen victim to over processed junk foods and fast food. With the obesity epidemic raging on and heart disease rates skyrocketing, encouraging healthy diets has never been more crucial in the United States.
By consuming nutritionally rich food, you can encourage the proper growth and development of your body. In order to maximize diet benefits, it’s important to eat food from a variety of different groups and sources. The US Department of Agriculture frequently updates its guidelines to healthy eating, and the most recent model emphasizes balancing food groups and physical activity.
There are six different food groups that you should consider when planning your and your family’s meals. You should aim to eat around 3 ounces of whole grains—including breads, rice, pastas, and cereals—every day, focusing in on whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice. Try to avoid white, refined grains, which have less vitamins, fiber, and iron. If you’re eating white rice, white bread, or white flour products, you’re eating refined grains—unless the product is enriched.
You should also aim to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day to stay healthy. You can eat fruits and vegetables dried, cooked, and raw, and can easily incorporate them into your diet as snacks throughout your day. For vegetables, try to eat more dark, leafy greens and orange vegetables like carrots. As for fruit, try to change up what you eat and try more delicious fruits.
To incorporate more bone-strengthening calcium into your diet, try do incorporate 2-3 cups of milk products into your daily diet. Drinking milk itself is an easy way to get the dairy you need. Cheeses, yogurts, and even the occasional ice cream cones are also alternatives for adding dairy to your diet.
Don’t forget to add oils to your diets! While at first you may feel the urge to cut fats completely out of your diet, a limited supply (around 5-6 teaspoons, depending on your age and gender). However, avoid “solid” fats like butter, which contain saturated and trans fats that can increase your cholesterol levels. You can use cooking oils like olive oil or sunflower oil, and can also eat foods like avocado, nuts, olives, and fish that naturally contain the oils you need.
Finally, make sure your diet is full of protein! To do so, cook meals full of lean meats and beans. Beef, ham, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, and fish are all examples of quality lean meats. Beans, peas, and nuts are also excellent ways of boosting your protein intake. Depending on your age and gender, try to eat around 5-6 ounces of protein daily.
If you’re still unsure when it comes to balancing your diet, try the USDA Balanced Meal Planner. It’s a great tool that visually shows you how much of each group you’re eating.
If you’re looking for ways to add healthy foods into your family’s diet, check out Fix Me A Snack, a great blog by Cindy Rowland, which promotes healthy snacking and shows a variety of easy recipes for all the food groups. It’s Not About Nutrition by Dina R. Rose, PhD is a great resource for nutrition as well.