Healthy eating is about balance, variety,
Having a well-balanced diet means that
you eat enough, but not too much, and that food gives you the
nutrients you need to stay healthy.
You can get more information from the
Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines
provide tips for eating well to stay healthy and lower your risk of diseases
such as heart attack and stroke.
Calories, the energy in food, are
another part of balance. The more active you are, the more calories you need.
When you are less active, you need fewer calories.
calories you need each day also depends on your age, whether you are male or
female, and activity level.1 Some life situations, such as being pregnant or breast-feeding, can also influence calorie needs. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest:
- Less active women and older adults need 1,600 to 2,000
calories each day.
- Active women and less active men need
2,000 to 2,400 calories each day.
- Active men need 2,400 to 3,000 calories each day.
knowing how many calories you need each day is just one part of healthy eating.
Eating when you're hungry and knowing when you're full are also important.
Listening to your body
Young children are good at listening to their bodies.
They eat when they're hungry. They stop when they're full.
adults may ignore these signals. They may keep eating after they're full, or
they may eat because they're bored or upset. If you ignore your body's signals
for a long time (such as by dieting or overeating) you may lose your ability to
notice them. You get out of practice. Other factors may influence what you eat.
Your body uses these signals
to tell you when and how much to eat:
- Hunger makes you want to eat. Your
body tells your brain that your stomach is empty and your blood sugar is low.
This makes your stomach growl and gives you hunger pangs. You can ignore hunger
for a while, but then you reach a point where you will think only of
- Fullness is the feeling of being
satisfied. Your stomach tells
your brain that you're full, and you won't be hungry for a few hours.
- Appetite is the desire for the taste
of food and the pleasure we get from food. It's usually linked to the sight,
smell, or thought of food. Appetite can override hunger and fullness, such as
when you keep eating after you're full.
- Healthy Eating: Recognizing Your Hunger Signals
Eating a variety of foods can help you
get all the
nutrients you need. Your body needs
fats for energy. They keep your heart beating, your
brain active, and your muscles working.
Along with giving you
nutrients, healthy foods also can give you pleasure. They can taste great and
be good for you at the same time.
sources of nutrients are:
- Unsaturated fats like olive and canola oil,
nuts, and fish.
- Carbohydrate from whole grains, fruits,
vegetables, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), and low-fat milk products.
- Lean protein such as all types of fish, poultry without skin,
low-fat milk products, and legumes.
To work well, your body also needs
minerals, and water.
For more information
about nutrients, see:
In addition to nutrients, foods also contain
other things that are important for good
health. These include:
- Fiber, which
comes from plant foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and
nuts. Fiber may help control blood sugar and cholesterol. It keeps your
intestines healthy and prevents
- Phytochemicals, which also come from
plants and may protect against cancer.
- Antioxidants, which also are in fruits
and vegetables. They protect your body from damage caused by
Moderation is your key to healthy, balanced eating.
If your favorite foods are high in fat, salt, sugar, or calories, limit how
often you eat them. Eat smaller servings, or look for healthy
And yes, you can have desserts and treats now and
then. All foods, if eaten in moderation, can be a part of healthy
For more information, see:
- Healthy Eating: Cutting Unhealthy Fats From Your Diet.
- Healthy Eating: Eating Less Sodium