So, what does a healthy diet look like?
It's all about the balance- all types of foods can have their place in a healthy diet. Each food group has its own unique benefits imperative to your well-being.
Carbohydrates - breads, cereal, rice, pasta, potatoes, corn and plantains.3
- Why you need them: they are the body's main source of energy!3 They should be included in every meal and comprise the majority of your diet.9 Everyone needs these foods to have energy and obtain essential nutrients such as fiber and other vitamins and minerals.3 Without enough carbohydrates, the body must resort to breaking down your lean muscle! Keep in mind that the higher your activity level, the more carbs you need to eat!
- for best results: try whole grains such as wheat bread or brown rice to get more fiber! 3
Fats - oils, butter, margarine, salad dressings, etc. 3 They also appear as components of other foods such as meats and dairy products.
- Why you need them: they are a good source of energy and they transport and store important
fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. 1 Incorporate a small amount of supplemental fat at each meal, like salad dressing,
olive oil, guacamole, nuts, or seeds.9
- For best results: when eating prepared foods, stick to those prepared with olive,
canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut, and other vegetable oils which are unsaturated
fats that can actually improve your cholesterol levels and protect your heart! Be
wary of labels that include hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or
vegetable shortening on the ingredient list as they contain harmful trans fats.2
Protein - meat, nuts, peanut butter, lentils, garbanzo beans, peas, black-eyed peas, seeds, eggs, non-meat alternatives such as soy or tofu. Aim for six to eight servings of different types daily. 1 A serving of protein might include 3 ounces of cooked meats, poultry, or fish, an egg, 6 ounces of cooked tofu, 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of seeds or ½ cup beans or peas. 1
- Why you need it: the nutrients provided by different sources of protein promote cell
growth and repair cells and tissues to maintain healthy hair, skin, blood, organs,
- For best results: try to get your protein in regular meals-it's easier than you think!
Studies have shown that a majority of Americans, including athletes, can obtain the
amount of protein they need without using special protein bars, powders or shakes.
Dairy - milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream. Strive to get at least three servings daily. A serving may consists of a cup of milk or yogurt or 1.5 ounces of cheese.1
- Why you need it: dairy products are the most efficient sources for getting calcium, vitamin A, protein and other minerals that maintain healthy bones! 3
- For best results: If you are not a big fan of regular milk, make sure you get your calcium by incorporating milk into other foods that you eat, such as puddings, soups, hot chocolate, etc. 3 Also, mix it up by trying milk alternatives such as soy milk or rice milk.
Fruits - raw, dried, canned, juices, sauces. Try for four to five servings daily.1
- Why you need them: they are great sources of different vitamins, fiber, water and energy-bearing carbohydrates.3 Fruits often contain a significant amount of potassium and magnesium. 1 A serving of fruit might consist of 1 medium-sized fruit, ¼ cup dried fruit, ½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit or ½ cup juice.1
- For best results: get more bang for your buck- raw and dried fruits tend to be higher in fiber and lower in sugar than juices, canned products or other processed fruit products. 3
Vegetables - raw, juiced, prepared. Strive for four to six servings daily.1 A serving of vegetables might resemble 1 cup raw leafy vegetables, ½ cup cut-up cooked vegetables, 1 cup of sprouted seeds or ½ cup vegetable juice.1
- Why you need them: diverse types of vegetables provide different essential vitamins,
minerals and carbohydrates. 3 Like fruits, they are often contain a lot of magnesium and potassium.1
For best results: incorporate different vegetables into your diet to reap their various benefits. Deep orange and dark green vegetables contain a lot of vitamin A. Cabbage, peppers and leafy green vegetables are high in vitamin C. Broccoli, spinach, collard greens are examples of dark green vegetables that contain significant amounts of calcium and iron. Also, broccoli, cauliflower, and turnips have been shown to have cancer-fighting anti-oxidant properties.3
Variety is the spice of life!!! Eat different kinds of foods for optimal nutrition, and do not hesitate to have processed or junk foods as a treat from time to time!