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Achieve Optimal Health
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What's the Best Nutrition Advice?
It's following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These are seven
guidelines for a healthy diet - advice for
Americans 2 years of age or more. By following the Dietary Guidelines, you
can enjoy better health and reduce your chances of getting certain diseases.
These Guidelines, developed jointly by USDA and HHS, are the best, most
up-to-date advice from nutrition scientists and are the basis of Federal
The Dietary Guidelines For Americans
Eat a variety of foods
to get the energy, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber you need for good
Balance the food you eat
with physical activity - maintain or improve your weight to
reduce you chances of having high blood pressure, heart disease, a stroke,
certain cancers, and the most common kind of diabetes.
Choose a diet with
plenty of grain products, vegetables, and fruits which provide
needed vitamins, minerals, fiber, and complex carbohydrates, and can help
you lower your intake of fat. Make sure to prefer
Choose a diet low in
fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol to reduce your risk of heart
attack and certain types of cancer and to help you maintain a healthy
Choose a diet moderate
in sugars. A diet with lots of sugars has too many calories and
too few nutrients for most people and can contribute to tooth decay.
Choose a diet moderate
in salt and sodium to help reduce your risk of high blood
If you drink alcoholic
beverages, do so in moderation. Alcoholic beverages supply
calories, but little or no nutrients. drinking alcohol is also the cause of
many health problems and accidents and can lead to addiction.
What is the Food Guide Pyramid?
The Pyramid is an outline of what to eat each day. It's not
a rigid prescription, but a general guide that lets you choose a healthful diet
that's right for you.
The Pyramid calls for eating a variety of foods to get the nutrients you need
and at the same time the right amount of calories to maintain or improve your
The Pyramid also focuses on fat because most Americans diets are too high in
Looking at the Pieces of the Pyramid
The Food Guide Pyramid emphasizes foods from the five major food groups
shown in the three lower sections of the Pyramid. Each of these food groups
provides some, but not all, of the nutrients you need. Foods in one group
can't replace those in another. No one food group is more important than
another - for good health, you need them all.
The small tip of the Pyramid shows fats, oils, and sweets. These
are foods such as salad dressings and oils, cream, butter, margarine, sugars,
soft drinks, candies, and sweet desserts. These foods provide calories and
little else nutritionally. Most people should use them sparingly.
On this level of the Food Guide Pyramid are two groups
of foods that come mostly from animals: milk, yogurt, cheese; and meat,
poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts. These foods are for protein,
calcium, iron, and zinc.
This level includes foods that come from plants -
vegetables and fruits. Most people need to eat more of these foods for the
vitamins, minerals, and fiber they supply.
At the base of the Food Guide Pyramid are breads,
cereals, rice, and pasta - all foods from grains. You need the servings of
these foods each day.
A Closer Look at Fat and Added Sugars
As you can see, fat and sugars are concentrated in
foods from the Pyramid tip - fats, oils, and sweets. These foods supply
calories, and little or no vitamins and minerals. By using these foods
sparingly, you can have a diet that supplies needed vitamins and minerals
without excess calories.
Some fat or sugar symbols are shown in the food groups. That's to remind you
that some food choices in these food groups can also be high in fat or added
sugars. When choosing foods for a healthful diet, consider that fat and
added sugars in your choices from the food groups, as well as the fats,
oils, and sweets from the Pyramid tip.
In general, foods that come from animals (milk and meat groups) are
naturally higher in fat than foods that come from plants. But there are many
low fat dairy and lean meat choices available, and these foods can be
prepared in ways that lower fat.
Fruits, vegetables, and grain products are naturally low in fat. But many
popular items are prepared with fat, like french-fried potatoes, or
croissants, making them higher fat choices.
Fruits, vegetables, and grain products are naturally
low in fat. But many popular items are prepared with fat, like french-fried
potatoes, or croissants, making them higher fat choices.
One Baked Potato
14 French Fries
Fat: 11 grams
These symbols represent sugars added to foods in
processing or at the table, not the sugars found naturally in fruits and
milk. It's the added sugars that provide calories with few vitamins and
Most of the added sugars in the typical American diet come from foods in the
Pyramid tip - soft drinks, candy, jams, jellies, syrups, and table sugar we
add to foods like coffee or cereal.
Added sugars in the food groups come from foods such as ice cream, sweetened
yogurt, chocolate milk, canned or frozen fruit with heavy syrup, an
sweetened bakery products like cakes and cookies. The chart on page 16 shows
you the amounts of added sugars in some popular foods. You may be surprised!
Fat and Sugar Tips:
lower fat foods from the food groups most often.
Ľ Go easy on fats and sugars added
to foods in cooking or at the table - butter, margarine, gravy, salad
dressing, sugar, and jelly.
Ľ Choose fewer foods that are high
in sugars - candy, sweet desserts, and soft drinks.
How many servings are right for me?
The Pyramid shows a range of servings for each major food group. The number
of servings that are right for you depends on how many calories you need,
which in turn depends on your age, sex, size, and how active you are. Almost
everyone should have at least the lowest number of servings in the ranges.
The calorie level suggestions are based on recommendations of the National
Academy of Sciences and on calorie intakes reported by people in national
food consumption surveys.
1,600 calories is about right for many sedentary women and some older
2,200 calories is about right for most children, teenage girls,
active women, and many sedentary men. Women who are pregnant or
breastfeeding may need somewhat more.
2,800 calories is about right for teenage boys, many active men, and
some very active women.
For young children
It is hard to know how much food children need to grow
normally. If you're unsure, check with your doctor. Preschool children need
the same variety of foods as older family members do, but may need less than
1, 600 calories. For fewer calories they can eat smaller servings. However,
it is important that they have the equivalent of 2 cups of milk a day.
Now, take a look at the table below. It tells you how
many servings you need for your calorie level. For example, if you are an
active woman who needs about 2, 200 calories a day, 9 servings of breads,
cereals, rice, or pasta would be right for you. You'd also want to eat about
6 ounces of meat or alternates per day. Keep total fat (fat in the foods you
choose as well as fat used in cooking or added at the table) to about 73
grams per day.
If you are between calorie categories, estimate servings. For example, some
less active women may need only 2, 000 calories to maintain a healthy
weight. At that calorie level, 8 servings from the grain group would be
What is a Serving?
The amount of food that counts as a serving is listed on the next page. If
you eat a larger portion, count it as more than one serving. For example,
1/2 cup of cooked pasta counts as one serving in the bread, cereal, rice,
and pasta group. If you eat 1 cup of pasta, that would be two servings. If
you eat a smaller portion, count it as part of a serving.
Isn't 6 to 11 servings of breads and cereals a lot?
It may sound like a lot, but it's really not. For
example, a slice of bread is one serving, so a sandwich for lunch would
equal two servings. A small bowl of cereal and one slice of toast for
breakfast are two more servings. And it you have a cup of rice or pasta at
dinner, that's two more servings. A snack of 3 or 4 small plain crackers
adds yet another serving. So now you've had 7 servings. It adds up quicker
than you think!
Do I need to measure servings?
No. Use servings only as a general guide. For mixed foods, do the best you
can to estimate the food group servings of the main ingredients. For
example, a generous serving of pizza would count in the grain group (crust),
the milk group (cheese), and the vegetable group (tomato); a helping of beef
stew would count in the meat group and the vegetable group. Both have some
fat - fat in the cheese on the pizza and in the gravy form the stew, if it's
made from meat drippings.
What if I want to lose or gain weight?
The best and simplest way to lose weight is to increase your physical
activity and reduce the fat and sugars in your diet.
But be sure to eat at least the lowest number of servings from the five
major food groups in the Food Guide Pyramid. You need them for the vitamins,
minerals, carbohydrates, and protein they provide. Just try to pick the
lowest fat choices from the food groups.
To gain weight, increase the amounts of foods you eat from all of the food
groups. If you have lost weight unexpectedly, see your doctor.
How much fat can I have?
It depends on your calorie needs. The Dietary
Guidelines recommend that Americans limit fat in their diets to 30 percent
of calories. This amounts to 53 grams of fat in a 1,600-calorie diet, 73
grams of fat in a 2,200-calorie diet, and 93 grams of fat in a 2,800-calorie
You will get up to half this fat even if you pick the lowest fat choice from
each good group and add no fat to your foods in preparation or at the table.
You decide how to use the additional fat in your daily diet. You may want to
have foods from the five major food groups that are higher in fat--such as
whole milk instead of skim milk. Or you may want to use it in cooking or at
the table in the form of spreads, dressings, or toppings.
How to check your diet for fat
If you want to be sure you have a lowfat diet, you can
count the grams of fat in your day's food choices using the Pyramid Food
Choices Chart, and compare them to the number of grams of fat suggested for
you calorie level.
You don't need to count fat grams every day, but doing
a fat checkup once in awhile will help keep you on the right track. If you
find you are eating too much fat, choose lower fat foods more often.
You can figure the number of grams of fat that provide 30% of calories in
your daily diet as follow:
A. Multiply your total day's calories by 0.30 to get your calories from fat
per day. Example: 2,200 calories x 0.30 = 660 calories from fat.
B. Divide calories from fat per day by 9 (each gram of fat has 9 calories)
to get grams of fat per day. Example: 660 calories from fat ų 9 = 73
grams of fat.
Are some types of fat worse than others?
Yes. Eating too much saturated fat raises blood cholesterol
levels in many people, increasing their risk for heart disease. The Dietary
Guidelines recommend limiting saturated fat to less than 10 percent of calories,
or about on-third of total fat intake.
All fats in foods are mixtures of three types of fatty acids - saturated,
monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.
Saturated fats are found in largest amounts in fats from meat and dairy
product and in some vegetables fats such as coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils.
Monounsaturated fats are found mainly in olive, peanut, and canola oils.
Polyunsaturated fats are found mainly in safflower, sunflower, corn,
soybean, and cottonseed oils and some fish.
How do I avoid too much saturated fat?
Follow the Food Guide Pyramid, keeping your total fat
within recommended (See the table for the number of grams suggested at various
calorie levels). Choose fat from a variety of food sources, but mostly from
those foods that are higher in polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat.
What about cholesterol?
fat are not the same thing.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance present in all animal foods - meat, poultry,
fish, milk and milk products, and egg yolks. Both the lean and fat of meat and
the meat and skin of poultry contain cholesterol. In milk products, cholesterol
is mostly in the fat, so lower fat products contain less cholesterol. Egg yolks
and organ meats, like liver, are high in cholesterol. Plant foods do not contain
Dietary cholesterol, as well as saturated fat, raises blood cholesterol levels
in many people, increasing their risk for heart disease. Some health authorities
recommend that dietary cholesterol be limited to an average of 300 mg or less
per day. To keep dietary cholesterol to this level, follow the Food Guide
Pyramid, keeping your total fat to the amount that's right for you.
It's not necessary to eliminate all foods that are high in cholesterol. You can
have three to four egg yolks a week, counting those used as ingredients in
custards and baked products. Use lower fat dairy products often and occasionally
include dry beans and peas in place of meat.
Exercise Basics For Anyone
Do I Need A Physical Exam
Before I Exercise?
Yes. If you have had a heart problem, make it a point to undergo a medical
exam before you start an exercise program.
What Are The Benefits Of
Exercise can reduce your risk of future cardiac complications. Walking,
biking, swimming and other cardiovascular exercise can help you to control
obesity and high blood pressure. Activity also decreases fats circulating
in your blood stream. It can also make you feel great.
Are There Risks To
Yes, especially if you've had heart trouble. However, research shows that
exercise helps improve the outlook and quality of life even for people with
severe heart disease. To minimize any risks, follow the guidelines your
doctor gives you. This will allow you to reap the many health benefits of
exercise while reducing the risks.
How Long Should I Exercise?
lower your risk of heart disease, exercise at least 30 minutes per day, at least
three days a week. If you havenít exercised much lately, try starting by
exercising on alternate days. This helps to reduce the risk of injury.
Be kind to your body. Donít go out on the first day and start with a
30-minute run. Instead, start with five minutes of walking. Then,
add one minute every day until you reach your 30-minute-per-day goal.
How Vigorously Should I
general, you should be able to carry on a conversation while you are exercising.
If you're a swimmer, you should be able to say a few words to the swimmer in the
next lane after each lap.
What Is My Maximum Heart
Maximum heart rate is the highest number of times your heart can beat in one
minute. It's a useful tool to determine the intensity of your training.
A simple way to figure out your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from
What Is My Target Heart
target heart rate is the range you want to keep your heart rate within when you
exercise. To get the full benefit of exercise, you should keep your heart
rate within 50 percent to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate.
If you're 50 years old,
your maximum heart rate should be around 170 beats per minute. Here's the
find 50 percent of 170, multiply 0.5 by 170. The answer is 85.
find 75 percent of 170, multiply 0.75 by 170. The answer is 127.
Your target heart rate
while exercising should be between 85 and 127 beats per minute.
If you're having heart
difficulties, always consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Your doctor can help you determine your precise target heart rate.
Why Should I Warm Up?
good warm-up increases the temperature of your muscles and stretches tendons and
ligaments, making them more flexible and less likely to suffer an injury.
It also helps you have a much more productive workout.
How Do I Warm Up?
Many warm-up activities are simply low-intensity versions of your chosen sport.
For example, if running is your exercise, an effective warm-up would be to start
out walking and gradually increase your speed until you are jogging. A
great warm up for any workout or for any sport you play is a stationary bicycle.
What is my BMI?
Many people refer to this when trying to determine how overweight someone is.
The body mass index (BMI) is, in fact, a useful measure of weight to height.
It gives you an indication of whether you are at risk of health problems (such
as diabetes and heart disease) that are related to being overweight or obese.
An ideal BMI is probably between 20.5 and 21.5. A BMI greater than 30 is
associated with increased risk of health problems related to obesity. If
you are concerned about your BMI, talk with your doctor. Feel free to use
our BMI calculator to help you figure out your BMI.
Easy Exercise Tips
How Can I Increase My Flexibility?
First, realize that
you cannot just bounce around and force your muscles to become flexible.
Follow these tips to increase the flexibility in your muscles:
Warm up by walking or biking for five
minutes or until you begin to feel warm and the muscles in your upper and lower
body begin to feel loosened up. While performing a flexibility exercise,
hold your position for at least 30 seconds (and possibly up to a minute) to
maximize the benefits of stretching a specific muscle. Inhale through your
nose and exhale through your mouth to ensure relaxation and promote maximum
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Injury?
Consider having an
exercise physiologist develop or review your exercise routine. Always warm
up for at least five minutes (or until your muscles feel warm). Don't
forget to increase the time and intensity of your exercise program gradually.
If you begin to feel pain during or after your exercise session, you may be
What Are The Advantages Of Weight Training?
increases muscle mass, which helps to burn calories. Exercises that
strengthen upper back muscles also improve posture, while strong abdominal
muscles help support the lower back. If your knees are not as stable as
they have been in the past, exercises that develop the muscles in the front of
the upper thigh may be just the medicine you need.
Consult with your doctor or exercise
physiologist before beginning any weight-training program. Improper
lifting technique or lifting too much can lead to injury (and a temporary rise
in blood pressure).
I Don't Have 30 Minutes Per Day. Any
Break your exercise
sessions into two 15-minute programs or three 10-minute mini-sessions.
Change Your Bad Habits
How Can I Stay
Motivated To Exercise?
Incorporate exercise into your lifestyle. Use
stairs instead of elevators for short climbs. Perhaps you can save a few
dollars and burn a few calories by sharing a walk with a friend instead of
sharing a meal. That friend does not necessarily have to be the
traditional two-legged kind. If you have a pet dog, for example, take it
for a walk instead of just opening the back door. Another example: Instead of
driving around the mall in search of that perfect parking spot closest to the
entrance, park in the back where there are lots of open spots and enjoy an
additional opportunity to exercise.
Iím Embarrassed To Go To The Gym
Nobody is born a bodybuilder. If you feel
intimidated walking through the doors of health club, just remember that most
people are busy looking at their own bodies. You're the only person
looking at yours. You might want to visit a few fitness centers to find
one that feels comfortable to you. Most clubs give you a trial workout.
Use your free pass at a time when you would most likely exercise. You'll
see who uses the gym at this time and how crowded it gets.
Can I Reward Myself For
Sticking to My Plan?
Sure, though you might not want your reward to be a hot
fudge sundae. Find rewards other than indulging in sweets. Perhaps
new clothes to fit your new form.
Can I Skip A Workout?
Sure, though you might not want to make it easy on
yourself. Once you are consistently working out, you will actually
probably feel really guilty when you miss a workout. You will also notice
what exercise does for you - gives you more energy and makes you feel more
alive! It is normal, though, for people to get into a rut sometimes.
If you're muscles are fatigued and you think you're "burned out", go ahead and
do one of two things - either change your routine (or even the type of exercises
you do) or actually give your body a break by missing 1 or 2 workouts.
Remember the positive things exercise has done or you (instead of focusing on
the negative things like how much time it takes etc.) and you will always
come back to it...
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weight loss questions