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What are the basics of healthy eating? What does a healthy meal look like? These are some questions many of us ask each day. The USDA is responsible for publishing nutritional guidelines for healthy eating based on ongoing research. The basics haven’t really changed, however, there have been a few adjustments. A few years ago, the guide changed from the controversial Food Pyramid (still available to nutrition professionals) to the more recent My Plate. For the most current information check out the USDA webpage. Here you will find recipes, advice, nutritional information, printable materials, links to calculate your BMI, calories & weight management information and many more useful tools.

Nutrient density is a major focus of the new food guidelines. Nutrient-dense foods are foods that in their prepared state have significantly more nutrients per calorie. Nutrient-dense does not necessarily mean low-calorie. “There’s a lot to be said for higher-calorie foods with lots of nutrients, such as nuts,” says David Grotto, RD, a dietitian in Illinois and author of 101 Optimal Life Foods. “Research suggests that nuts actually prevent you from over-eating because they help you feel full.” The key is displacing empty calories with nutritious, filling calories. (Everyday Health)

Here are a few details about the USDA’s recommended nutritional guidelines for a healthy eating plan:

  • Focus on fruits and vegetables: Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal.
  • Go for low-fat dairy: Consume at least three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk each day.
  • Choose whole grains: Get at least six to eight servings of whole grains each day. Grains should fill a quarter of your plate at each meal.
  • Avoid trans and saturated fats, limit sodium (salt), sugars, and cholesterol (Limit fat to only about 20 to 35 percent of total calorie intake).
  • Choose lean proteins: Fill the remaining quarter of your plate with lean protein. About 15 percent of your total calories should come from proteins; lean meat, fish, beans, nuts, and legumes.
  • The new food guidelines recommend consuming at least 8 ounces of fish, shellfish, and other types of seafood every week. Fish is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which are important for both your heart and brain health.

More tips for living a fit, healthy life:

  • Pay attention to portion control.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Know the recommended daily calorie intake for your specific body type (height, weight, age, gender).
  • Select a variety of foods each day to keep things new.
  • Provide your body with the necessary vitamins and minerals it requires.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Do not deprive yourself of things you enjoy eating – everything in moderation.