A healthful diet provides the proper combination of energy and nutrients. It is adequate, moderate, balanced and varied. No matter if you’re young or old, overweight or underweight, healthy or coping with illness, if you keep in mind these characteristics of a healthful diet, you will be able to consciously select foods that provide with you with appropriate combination of nutrients and energy each day.
An adequate diet provides enough of the energy, nutrients, and fiber to maintain a person’s health. A diet may be inadequate in only one area. Many people in United States don’t eat enough vegetables and therefore aren’t consuming enough of the fiber and micronutrients found in vegetables. On the other hand, under nutrition can occur if an individual’s diet contains an inadequate level of several nutrients for a long period of time. To maintain a thin figure, some may skip meals, avoid foods that contain any fat and limit their meals to only a few foods. This type of restrictive eating pattern can cause low energy levels, loss of bone and hair, impaired memory and cognitive function and menstrual dysfunction in women if practiced for long enough. Also keep in mind that a diet that is adequate for one person may not be adequate for another.
Moderation is one of the keys to a healthful diet. This refers to eating any foods in moderate amounts, meaning, not too much or too little. If a person eats too much or too little of certain foods, health goals can’t be reached. For example, some people drink as much as 60 fluid ounces of soft drinks on some days which contributes an extra 765 calories of energy to a person’s diet!
A balanced diet is one that contains the combinations of foods that provide the proper proportions of nutrients. The body needs many types of foods in varying amounts to maintain health. For example, fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. However, meats are not good sources of fiber and other nutrients, but are excellent sources of protein, iron, zinc and copper. By eating a proper balance of all healthful foods, there can be confidence that we are consuming the balanced nutrition we need to maintain health.
Variety refers to eating many different foods from different food groups on a regular basis. With literally thousands of healthful foods to choose from, trying new foods on a regular basis is fun and easy to vary your diet. Eat a new vegetable every week or substitute one food for another. Selecting a wide variety of foods increases the likelihood of consuming the multitude of nutrients the body needs. Also, a varied diet prevents boredom.
Many people feel it’s impossible to eat a healthful diet. They may believe that the foods they would need to eat are too expensive or not available to them or may feel too busy to do the planning, shopping or cooking. Some people rely on dietary supplements to get enough nutrients instead of focusing on eating a variety of foods. Although designing and maintaing a healthful diet is not as simple as eating whatever you want, most of us can improve our diets with a little practice and a little help. Stay tuned for next time to let you know how!
Source: Thompson, Janice, Melinda Manore, and Linda A. Vaughan. The Science of Nutrition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2011. Print.