Eating a variety of foods each day is part of having a healthy diet. You should be including all of these food groups in your meals and snacks each day: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Meat & Beans, Dairy, Oils, Fats and Sugars; unless of course your doctor has placed you on a special diet. Not only are these foods tasty, but also they give you energy to accomplish tasks, and to play. Most people today say they are too busy to prepare, or sit down and enjoy a meal, so they grab something as they run out the door, or worse yet, they totally skip a meal. Your body needs food so it can function properly.
A balanced diet means something different for an adult than it does for a child. Most people have heard of The Food Pyramid, well not everyone’s food pyramid looks the same. Different ages, sex and activity levels require different amounts of each food group. A male, aged 50, who gets an average of 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day should follow a 2400 calorie diet, this includes 8oz of grains, 3 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruits, 3 cups of milk, and 6.5oz of meat & beans per day. On a weekly basis this same individual would need to consume 3 cups of dark green vegetables, 2 cups of orange vegetables, 3 cups of dry beans or peas, 6 cups of a starchy vegetable, and 7 cups of other vegetables per week for a balanced diet. Fats, sugars and oils are part of a balanced diet in moderation. No more than 7 tsp of oil per day and no more than 360 calories from fats and sugars per day for this individual. In contrast a younger male, say age 25 getting the same 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day would require the same amount of milk per day but the rest of the food pyramid increases to 10 oz of grains, 3.5 cups of vegetables, 2.5 cups of fruits, and 7oz of meats and beans. How does the balanced diet change for say a 50-year-old female who sits most of the day and gets less than 30 minutes of exercise per day? To have a balanced diet, she should consume only 6oz of grain, 2.5 cups of vegetables, 1.5 cups of fruits, 3 cups of milk, and 5oz of meats and beans.
A balanced diet for a child is different from that of an adult. Let’s take a 5-year-old female or male who gets more than 60 minutes of exercise a day. A child’s body at this age would require approximately 1600 calories a day. To get those calories with a balanced diet a child should consume in a day; 5oz of grains, 2 cups of vegetables, 1.5 cups of fruit, 3 cups of milk, and 5oz of meats and beans. What about an active male teenager. He would need a 2600 caloric intake daily and a balanced diet would include: 9oz of grains, 3.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of milk, and 6.5oz of meat and beans. A teenage female would require less calories at 2200 per day and a well balanced diet for her would consist of 7oz of grains, 3.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of milk, 6.5oz of meats and beans per day.
As illustrated above a balanced diet varies based on age, sex and activity level. We all should eat from each food group and limit our fats, sweets and oils. It is important for children to consume some fats and oils as their growing bodies need these to function properly; so it is not a good idea to put the entire family on a diet just because the adults in the family need to lose weight. Each individual has different caloric requirements based on their age, sex and activity level.
Grains – Any food item made out of wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or other cereal grain. Breads, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereal, tortilla, taco shells, muffins, biscuits are just a few foods in this group.
Vegetables – Include juices made from vegetables. Can be dark green, orange, dry beans and peas or starchy (corn, green peas, green lima beans, potatoes).
Fruits – Include 100% juices made from fruits. This group includes: apples, apricots, avocado, banana, berries, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi fruit, lemons, limes, mangoes, melons, nectarines, tangerines, raisins, prunes, plums, pineapple, papaya, pears, peaches, oranges.
Meats and beans – Includes meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, peas, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Dairy – Milk and Milk products including cheeses.