To round out the rest of your eating plan...
Enjoying a variety of foods helps keep you healthy. No one food provides all the nutrients your body needs. Choose from a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains and lean sources of protein, including legumes, fish, low-fat dairy products and lean meats, to optimize nutrition and taste and promote a healthy weight.
Calories: 1,600 to 2,800 a day
The calorie is a measurement of the amount of energy provided by a food or recipe. Daily calorie needs vary with age, sex and activity level.
Average calorie goals per day:
Tip: For general health and better weight control, try to distribute calories evenly at eating times throughout the day.
Protein: About 12 percent of calories
In a 2,000-calorie diet, 12 percent of calories from protein is 60 grams. Your body uses protein to make and maintain tissues such as muscles and organs. However, most Americans typically eat far more protein than they need. A high-protein diet is often high in fat and cholesterol.
You can get protein from a variety of sources. Legumes, poultry, seafood, meat, dairy products, nuts and seeds are your richest sources of protein. Grains and vegetables supply small amounts. Choose sources that are also low in fat.
Tip: Reduce emphasis on meats and other animal foods as part of your meals. Even if you don't eat any animal protein, you can easily get enough protein as long as you eat a variety of foods that provide enough calories to maintain your healthy weight.
Carbohydrates: About 55 percent to 65 percent of calories
Foods high in carbohydrates are used mostly for energy. Complex carbohydrates are the starches and fibers in grains, vegetables and legumes. Simple carbohydrates are the sugars in sweets, fruits and milk.
Tip: Try to eat most of your carbohydrates as complex carbohydrates. Your body absorbs complex carbohydrates more slowly than simple sugars for a more continuous energy supply. Complex carbohydrates also provide more nutrients and fiber than sweets.
Fat: About 20 percent to 30 percent of calories
Fat is your most concentrated energy source. Some fat is required in your diet for your body to function properly. Too much fat can have a negative impact on your health.
Different kinds of fat include:
Saturated and trans fats increase your risk of coronary artery disease by raising your blood cholesterol levels. High blood levels of cholesterol can lead to narrowing of your arteries and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Polyunsaturated fats lower your blood cholesterol but also seem to be susceptible to oxidation. Oxidation is a process that enables cells in your arteries to absorb fats and cholesterol. Over time, oxidation speeds the buildup of plaques, which narrow arteries.
In the right
amounts, monounsaturated fats may help lower blood cholesterol and are
resistant to oxidation.
Saturated fat: No more than 10 percent of total calories
Although both trans and saturated fats raise blood cholesterol levels, foods containing saturated fats are more prevalent in typical diets.
Tip: In addition to limiting fat, eat smaller portions and choose low-fat varieties of foods that contain saturated fat, such as meats, cheeses and milk.
Cholesterol: No more than 300 milligrams (mg) a day
Almost all foods made from animals contain cholesterol. Concentrated sources include organ meats, egg yolks and whole-milk products.
Tip: Limit cholesterol but don't overemphasize its significance. The primary dietary determinant of high blood cholesterol is saturated fat. For some people, however, dietary cholesterol can raise the level of blood cholesterol higher.
Sodium: No more than 2,400 mg a day
Sodium occurs naturally in foods. It also makes up 40 percent of table salt (sodium chloride). You need only a small amount of sodium - less than one-quarter teaspoon of salt - to help regulate fluid balance. Too much sodium may contribute to a rise in blood pressure, putting you at risk of heart attack and stroke.
Tip: Control sodium by limiting processed foods. Also cut back on the salt you add to food in cooking and at the table. As you use less salt, your preference for salt will lessen, allowing you to enjoy the taste of the food itself.
Dietary fiber: 20 to 35 grams a day
Dietary fiber is largely plant cell material that resists digestion. Insoluble fiber holds onto water, adding bulk and helping prevent constipation. It also reduces your risk of colon cancer. It's found mainly in vegetables, wheat bran and whole grains. Soluble fiber may help improve blood cholesterol levels and blood sugar control. Generous amounts are found in oats, legumes and fruits.
Tip: The best way to boost fiber is to eat a variety of whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits. When buying breads or grains, look for the word whole on the label.