By EatingWell Editors, "Balance Your Diet,"EatingWell In Season: The Farmers' Market Cookbook (2009)
Vegetables and fruits form the foundation of a healthy diet. But you can’t live on produce alone. To get all your essential nutrients, you’ll also need to eat whole grains, lean protein (fish, lean meat, beans or low-fat dairy foods) and healthy fats, including nuts and olive oil. How much do you need? Balance your diet in three easy steps.
Does your plate look more like A or B?
Whatever you answered, you should aim to model (or keep modeling) your plate after B. Low-calorie—yet satisfying—vegetables fill half the plate. The other half is divided into two equal portions (quarters). One is filled with a lean protein, the other with a whole-grain or starchy vegetable.[pagebreak]
Eating a balanced diet means not only getting enough of specific nutrients, such as vitamin C and beta carotene, but also eating the right number of calories for your size.
The following equation will help you determine the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight.
Your body weight X 12 = __________
Subtract 500 calories from this number to lose 1 pound per week. To lose 2 pounds per week, subtract 1,000. If you calculate a calorie target that’s less than 1,200, set your calorie goal at 1,200. For more help on losing weight healthfully, check out The EatingWell Diet.[pagebreak]
To get even more accurate about ensuring nutritional balance in your diet, eat by the USDA’s MyPyramid recommended intakes for all the major food groups. Simply follow the guide below that’s closest to the calorie level you calculated in Step 2.
Recommended daily intakes by Pyramid group for a range of calorie levels:
||5 oz.-eq.||6 oz.-eq.||6 oz.-eq.||7 oz.-eq.||8 oz.-eq.||9 oz.-eq.||10 oz.-eq.||10 oz.-eq.|
|Vegetables**||2 cups||2.5 cups||2.5 cups||3 cups||3 cups||3.5 cups||3.5 cups||4 cups|
|Fruits***||1.5 cups||1.5 cups||2 cups||2 cups||2 cups||2 cups||2.5 cups||2.5 cups|
|Milk (or dairy)
||3 cups||3 cups||3 cups||3 cups||3 cups||3 cups||3 cups||3 cups|
|Meat, Beans†||5 oz.-eq.||5 oz.-eq.||5.5 oz.-eq.||6 oz.-eq.||6.5 oz.-eq.||6.5 oz.-eq.||7 oz.-eq.||7 oz.-eq.|
|Oils||5 tsp.||5 tsp.||6 tsp.||6 tsp.||7 tsp.||8 tsp.||8 tsp.||10 tsp.|
Note: These suggested food amounts are calculated to meet USDA recommended nutrient intakes. The contributions from each group are based on the “nutrient-dense” form of the food, without added fats or sugars (for example, lean meats, fat-free dairy products, grains with no added sugars).
*A 1-oz. grain equivalent = 1⁄2 cup of pasta, rice or oatmeal, 1 cup of whole-grain cold cereal, 1 slice of bread, 1⁄2 of an English muffin.
**A 1⁄2 cup of vegetables or 1 cup of raw leafy greens = 1 vegetable serving.
***1 cup of cut fruit or 1 medium whole fruit (orange, apple, banana) = 1 fruit serving.
† A 1-oz. equivalent = 1 oz. lean meat, poultry or fish, 1⁄4 cup cooked beans or tofu.
†† “Discretionary calories” are those remaining in the calorie total when all the food-group portions and nutrients are consumed. You can “spend” them on whatever you want, such as a piece of chocolate or a glass of wine.