Provided by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
You may be eating plenty of food, but still not be getting the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. You also may not be getting enough physical activity to stay fit and burn those extra calories. Eating right and being physically active aren’t just a "diet" or a "program" — they are keys to a healthy lifestyle.
Make smart choices from every food group
The best way to give your body the balanced nutrition it needs is by eating a variety of nutrient-packed foods every day. Just be sure to stay within your daily calorie needs. A healthy eating plan is one that:
- Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts
- Is low in saturated fats, transfats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars
Don’t give in when you eat out
It’s important to make smart food choices and watch portion sizes wherever you are — at the grocery store, at work, in your favorite restaurant or running errands. Try these tips:
- At the store, plan ahead by buying a variety of nutrient-rich foods for meals and snacks throughout the week
- When grabbing lunch, have a sandwich on whole-grain bread and choose low-fat or fat-free milk, water or other drinks without added sugars
- In a restaurant, opt for steamed, grilled or broiled dishes instead of those that are fried or sautéed
- On a long commute or shopping trip, pack some fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables, string cheese sticks or a handful of unsalted nuts to help you avoid impulsive, less-healthful snack choices
Find your balance between food and physical activity
Becoming a healthier you isn’t just about eating healthy — it’s about physical activity, too. Regular physical activity is important for your overall health and fitness. It also helps you control body weight by balancing the calories you take in as food with the calories you expend each day.
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week
- Increasing the intensity or the amount of time that you are physically active can have even greater health benefits and may be needed to control body weight; about 60 minutes a day may be needed to prevent weight gain
- Children and teenagers should be physically active for 60 minutes every day, or most every day
If you eat 100 more food calories a day than you burn, you’ll gain about 1 pound in a month. That’s about 10 pounds in a year. To estimate how many calories you need, refer to the chart below.
Get the most nutrition out of your calories
There is a right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends on your age, activity level and whether you’re trying to gain, maintain or lose weight. You could use up the entire amount on a few high-calorie items, but chances are that if you do you won’t get the full range of vitamins and nutrients your body needs to be healthy. Choose the most nutritionally rich foods you can from each food group each day — those packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but lower in calories. Pick foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products more often.
Note: 2,000 calories is the value used as a general reference on the food label. Use the above chart to estimate your daily calorie needs.
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