Healthy Eating:

Guide to New Food Pyramids and Tips for a Healthy Diet

Healthy eating is an opportunity to expand your range of choices by trying a variery of foods—especially vegetables, grains, or fruits—that you don't normally eat. A healthy diet doesn't have to mean eating foods that are bland or unappealing.

Healthy eating and being physically active are keys to a healthy lifestyle. You may reduce your risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and certain cancers, and increase your chances of living longer. This article helps you navigate the maze of new Food Pyramids and guidelines available and helps you develop a healthy diet plan that is best for your needs.

What are the benefits of a healthy diet?
A healthy diet is one of the most important ways you can maintain an active lifestyle and protect against health problems. Healthy eating increases energy, improves the way your body functions, strengthens your immune system and thwarts weight gain.

A healthy diet helps you:

Meet your nutritional needs. A varied, balanced diet provides the nutrients you need to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Non-nutrients, such as fiber, are also necessary to a healthy diet.

Prevent and treat certain diseases. Healthful eating can prevent the risk of developing certain diseases such as cancer and heart disease. It is also helpful in treating diabetes and high blood pressure. Following a special diet can reduce symptoms, and may help you better manage an illness or condition.

Enjoy life. Food is the mainstay of many social and cultural events. Not only does it provide nutrition, it helps facilitate connections between people. Cooking fresh, healthy meals can also be an enjoyable way to spend time, either on your own or with others.

Feel energetic and manage your weight. A healthy diet can help you feel better, provide you with more energy, and help you fight stress.

What are some general guidelines for healthy eating?
Don't skip meals. Plan your daily meals and snacks. For healthy eating, if your weight is normal, enjoy three meals and two additional snacks if you're hungry in between mealtimes.

Learn simple ways to prepare food. Healthy eating doesn't have to mean complicated eating. Keep meal preparation easy, eat more raw foods such as salads and vegetable juices, and focus on the pleasure of eating healthy food rather than the calories.

Avoid eating more sugar. If you feel tired in the afternoon, reach for fruits, veggies or a high protein snack rather than sweets, which actually rob your body of energy.

Listen to your body. Stop eating when you feel full. This will help you remain alert, relaxed and feeling your best.

What are the new USDA Dietary Guidelines and food pyramid?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005, is an 84-page PDF document, broken up into 12 chapters with 4 appendices, which covers different aspects food groups and food safety.

Finding Your Way to a Healthier You is a colorful 12-page reader-friendly PDF booklet designed to help the average American select a balanced / healthy diet.

USDA Food Pyramid (My Pyramid) is an interactive resource to help you determine the daily servings of grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, and meat & beans based on your age, gender, and level of physical activity. For instance, a moderately-active 40-year-old female should average:
Grains: 6 oz
Vegetables: 2.5 cups
Fruits: 2 cups
Milk: 3 cups
Meat & Beans: 5.5 oz

The guide includes tips for selecting foods within that group, snack suggestions, and what to look for on food labels. My Pyramid also provides a food tracking worksheet to help you keep track of what you eat and set goals for incorporating all of the food groups.

What are some criticisms of the new USDA Dietary Guidelines and My Pyramid?
Harvard School of Public Health provides a detailed critique of the new USDA Dietary Guidelines and food pyramids. They applaud changes in the guidelines related to:

importance of controlling weight
importance of physical activity
limiting the intake of trans fats and saturated fat
getting between 20% and 35% of daily calories from fats
potential health benefits of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
limiting sugar intake
benefits of whole grains

I hope these few tips help you eat healthier.

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