Healthy Eating Basics

Healthy eating is not just about calories. In order to eat healthy, you’ll want to focus on three things: reasonable calories; sufficient nutrients; reducing unhealthy ingredients.

Reasonable Calories
Eat the right number of calories each day. Eating too few calories not only results in poor health from lack of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, but can actually result in weight gain as your body reacts and goes into starvation mode. Calories not only fuel your physical movements throughout the day, but help fuel your brain, as well.

Yes, you can reduce calories to lose weight, but cutting calories alone doesn’t help most people take weight off and keep it off—it comes back. Balance calorie cutting and physical activity for long-term weight loss and maintenance and good health.

Sufficient Nutrients
The average American does not get enough of the essential vitamins and minerals that maintain good health, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA notes that most of us don’t get enough calcium, iron, vitamin A and C and dietary fiber. That’s why food nutrition labels list these amounts out for you. If you are on a diet or a vegetarian, you may be even more deficient in some nutrients.

The right diet can help you reduce your risk for poor cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, anemia, osteoporosis, overweight and obesity, diabetes and other health problems.

Read nutrition labels to make sure your meals contain enough of the nutrients you need each day. Healthy eating is about properly balancing your carbs, proteins and fat, and getting sufficient vitamins and minerals each day.

Reducing Unhealthy Ingredients
Fat, cholesterol and sodium are all good for you—in fact, you’ll die without them! However, if you eat too much of any nutrients, along with too many additives, preservatives, artificial coloring and other unhealthy ingredients, you can also get ill. In addition to eating enough healthy nutrients, you’ll want to keep an eye on the following: saturated, trans fats and sodium. Nutrition labels help you do this. Why not cholesterol? It turns out, dietary cholesterol doesn’t contribute to heart disease!

Eating Healthy is Easy!
Plan your daily eating in advance, or review it each night to see if you get the right amount of calories and nutrients each day and avoid unhealthy ingredients. Do these three simple things and you’ll follow a pattern of healthy eating. Skip any one of these three and you risk poor health and may take years off your life.

Additional Resources:

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label

Mayo Clinic: Food Pyramids: Explore These Healthy Diet Options

Harvard School of Public Health: Food Pyramids: What Should You Really Eat?

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Sample Menus for a 2000 Calorie Food Pattern

McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: the Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat

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