Proper Nutrition

Basic Steps to a Healthy Diet

The basic steps to good nutrition come from a diet that:

  • is balanced overall, with foods from all groups, with lots of delicious fruits, vegetables, and grains
  • is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat intake (less than 10 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fat, and less than 30 percent of your daily calories should come from total fat)
  • includes a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains, a good source of fiber
  • includes enough fruits and vegetables (a variety of each, five to nine servings each day)
  • has a small number of calories from added sugars (like in candy, cookies, and cakes)
  • has foods prepared with less sodium or salt (aim for no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day, or about one teaspoon of salt per day.)

Portion Control

Sizes for everything from bananas to soft drinks have gotten larger in the past 20 years.

It's not enough to eat the right kinds of food to maintain a healthy weight or to lose weight. Eating the right amount of food at each meal is just as important.  A serving is a specific amount of food, and it might  besmaller than you realize. Here are some examples:

  • A serving of meat (boneless, cooked weight) is two to three ounces, or roughly the size of the palm of your hand, a deck of cards, or an audiocassette size.
  • A serving of chopped vegetables or fruit is 1/2 cup, or approximately half a baseball or a rounded handful.
  • A serving of fresh fruit is one medium piece, or the size of a baseball.
  • A serving of cooked pasta, rice, or cereal is 1/2 cup, or half a baseball or a rounded handful.
  • A serving of cooked beans is 1/2 cup, or half a baseball or a rounded handful.
  • A serving of nuts is 1/3 cup, or a level handful for an average adult.
  • A serving of peanut butter is two tablespoons, about the size of a golf ball.

No matter which diet you choose, be sure to talk with your health care provider first, before starting any type of eating plan. You might want to ask your provider for a referral to a registered dietician (RD) who can help you. You might also want to enlist the help of a family member or friend to give you support and help you stay on track. Try to have some fun learning new recipes and different ways to cook!

We see these terms all the time, but what do they mean?

(These definitions are based on one serving of a food. If you eat more than one serving, you will go over these levels of calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium.)

  • Calorie-free:fewer than 5 calories
  • Low calorie:40 calories or fewer
  • Reduced calorie:at least 25% fewer calories than the regular food item has
  • Fat free:less than ½ gram of fat
  • Low fat:3 grams of fat or fewer
  • Reduced fat:at least 25% less fat than the regular food item has
  • Cholesterol free:fewer than 2 milligrams cholesterol and no more than 2 grams of saturated fate
  • Low cholesterol:20 milligrams or fewer cholesterol and 2 grams or less saturated fat
  • Sodium free:fewer than 5 milligrams sodium
  • Very low sodium:fewer than 35 milligrams sodium
  • Low sodium:fewer than 140 milligrams sodium
  • High fiber:5 grams or more fiber