Even if you eat a variety of foods, serving sizes are an important part of maintaining a healthful weight. Knowing them can help you gauge if you are eating enough food — or too much.
Aim for a healthful weight
Research clearly shows that being overweight greatly increases your risk for many diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. If you are overweight, combining a healthful eating plan with regular physical activity is the most effective way to lose weight and to sustain the loss . If you are at a healthy weight, your goal is to maintain that weight.
Be physically active each day
Everyone—young and old—can improve their health by being more active. Choose activities that you enjoy and can do regularly. Although you will gain more health benefits with high intensity exercise that lasts 30 minutes or more, low-to-moderate activities can be part of your routine. For some people, this means fitting more activity of daily living into your usual
routine. This could include using the elevator less and using the stairs more, parking farther from rather than closer to your destination, gardening, or golfing without a cart. For others, a more structured program might be preferred, such as at a worksite or health club. Whichever you choose, the goal is to include at least 30 minutes of activity every day.
The need for regular physical activity is so important that the Surgeon General of the United States has issued a report entitled Physical Activity and Health, which has its own guidelines for achieving activity. They are the following:
(a) Physical Activity
Physical activity should be performed regularly. Include a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) on most, if not all, days of the week. For most people, greater health benefits can be obtained by engaging in activity that is more vigorous or of longer duration.
(b) Previously sedentary
Previously sedentary people should start with short durations of moderate activities and gradually increase duration or intensity.
(c) Physical activity should be supplemented with strength-enhancing exercises at least twice a week to improve musculoskeletal health, maintain independence in performing the activities of daily life, and reduce the risk of falling.
(d) Consult with a physician before beginning a new physical activity program if you have—or are at risk for—a medical condition (such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes), or if you are a man older than 40 years or a woman older than 50.
Build a Healthy Base
Let the Pyramid guide your food choices Your body needs more than 40 nutrients and other substances for good health. No one food can give you all the nutrients your body needs, no matter how much you enjoy it or how nutritious the food is. By eating a wide variety of foods each day, you will keep your meals exciting and you will achieve the balance of nutrients that best ensures good health.
Choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains
Choosing a diet rich in grains, especially whole grains, reduces your risk of many diseases. These foods provide different types of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, as well as phytochemicals—important plant substances that may be beneficial to health. Rely on a wide variety of these foods rather than supplements as your source of nutrients, fiber, and phytochemicals. Aim for 6 servings each day—more if you are very active—and include several servings of whole-grain foods.
Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily
Fruits and vegetables are essential in your diet. They provide many vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber, and they are low in calories and provide no fat. The goal is to have at least 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables every day. Variety is important. Choose different colors and kinds of fruits and vegetables.
Keep foods safe to eat
Food safety is vital. It starts well before you purchase food. However, the steps you control also make a difference. They include making sure you have clean hands and work surfaces—before and during the handling of food. Take care to separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods at all times. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Make sure to cook food to the proper temperature. Refrigerate perishable foods and leftovers promptly. Follow the dates on containers. And finally, when in doubt, throw it out.
Choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat Fat is a nutrient that is essential for health, but too much fat in your diet, especially saturated fat, increases your risk of several diseases, including heart disease. Most important, learn to identify the sources of fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol, and make healthful food choices.
Choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars
Some foods that contain natural sugar (such as fruits, vegetables, and milk products) also contain essential nutrients. Others, such as table sugar, sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages, candy, and some baked goods, supply calories but few other nutrients. When consuming sugar, moderation is key.
Choose and prepare foods with less salt
Sodium, a nutrient, is a major part of table salt (sodium chloride). It is found naturally in many foods in small amounts. Salt and sodium compounds are also added to processed foods, and salt may be used in cooking or added at the table. Reducing sodium intake lowers high blood pressure in some individuals. Moderation in sodium intake is recommended.
If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation
Alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, and hard liquor) are a source of extra calories. When consumed in excess, alcohol can impair judgment, result in dependency, and lead to several serious health problems. However, evidence suggests that a moderate intake of alcohol is associated with a lower risk of disease of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease) in some individuals. Discuss the consumption of alcohol with your health care provider.
Sizing up your Servings
1 slice bread
1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal (large handful or check the package label)
1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta (similar to the size of an ice cream scoop)
1 medium apple or orange (size of tennis ball)
1 medium banana
1/2 cup cut-up, canned, or cooked fruit
3/4 cup 100% fruit juice
1 cup raw leafy vegetables (the size of your fist)
1/2 cup other vegetables, chopped (raw or cooked)
3/4 cup vegetable juice
(choose low-fat varieties)
1 cup milk or yogurt
1 1/2 ounces natural cheese (the size of a pair of dice
or pair of dominoes)
2 ounces low-fat processed cheese
2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
(about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand)
THE FOLLOWING ALSO EQUAL 1 OUNCE OF MEAT:
1/2 cup cooked dry beans or legumes (ice cream scoop)
1 egg (3 to 4 yolks per week)
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/3 cup nuts
1/2 cup tofu
FATS, OILS, AND SWEETS
(These foods add calories and are usually low in nutrients. Eat them sparingly.)