The USDA food pyramid provides some solid guidelines for Americans to follow so that they can make the best food choices for their health. These guidelines outline what is typically considered a "healthy diet" and stress eating a variety of foods from all the different food groups to get the necessary vitamins, minerals and energy from food.
What is a Balanced Diet?
The USDA describes a healthy and balanced diet as one that:
- Includes a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Emphasizes fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products
- Derives protein from fish, poultry, lean meats, eggs, beans and nuts
- Does not contain large amounts of saturated fats, cholesterol, added sugar or salt
The USDA guidelines are in place to enable people to make smart choices from every food group so that they get the most nutrition from the calories that they are eating. It is meant to help people stay within their daily caloric needs while still making them feel full, as well as recognize a balance between eating and physical activity.
Use the online food diary that Fitday provides to ensure you are consuming a well balanced diet and to track your daily food intake.
USDA Food Recommendations
On the Food Pyramid put out by the USDA, food is separated into the following groups:
These are any foods made from wheat, cornmeal, rice, oats, barley or any other cereal grain. These are then further divided into whole grains and refined grains. Half of all grains eaten daily should be whole grains, and an individuals needs for grains with vary based on age, gender and activity level, but will fall somewhere in the 5 to 8 ounces daily range.
This group includes all vegetables, as well as all 100% vegetable juice. Vegetables may be raw or cooked, as well as fresh, canned or frozen. These are further categorized into dark green vegetables, starchy vegetables, orange vegetables, peas and beans and other vegetables. Most adults require 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily.
These include all fruit and fruit juice, including fresh fruits, canned fruits, frozen fruits and dried fruits. To maintain a healthy diet, adults will typically have to eat 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit daily.
This group includes all liquid milk products, as well as many foods made from milk. It is recommended that you choose low-fat or fat-free milk products for the best health. Adults require 3 cups of milk and milk products daily.
Meats and Beans
This group includes all meat, fish, dried beans and peas, eggs, nuts and seeds. All choices in this group should be lean or low-fat. Fish, nuts and seeds all are made up of healthy oils so these choices should be used instead of meat and poultry when possible. Depending on age and activity level, most adults should have anywhere from 5 to 6 ½ ounces of meat and bean products daily.
These include any fats that are solid or liquid at room temperature like vegetable oils, nuts and nut oils, some types of fish and avocados. It is recommended that most of your fat intake comes from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats should be eaten in moderation and trans fats should be virtually avoided. Most adults should eat between 5 and 7 teaspoons of oils daily depending on age, gender and activity level.
By selecting a wide range of foods from all these food groups on a daily basis, you will be eating a healthy and well-balanced diet.