The keys to good nutrition are variety, balance, and moderation. Eating the same foods over and over can limit your access to the more than 50 nutrients required for good health. Even a healthy meal, such as cereal with skim milk and fresh fruit, is not nutritionally balanced enough to eat all the time. People in "food ruts" limit their chances for good nutrition.
There are no "good foods" and "bad foods". You can eat practically anything as long as you balance out your choices over time. Some foods like oil, butter, and fried foods are high in fat. You can still eat them if you balance them with low fat choices such as vegetables, fruits, and grains. Try to eat all foods in moderation. Too much of anything isn't a good idea.
Major Nutrient Groups
- Protein is found in both plant and animal foods. Protein is a key building block for every cell in your body. The typical American eats at least 50% more protein than is needed to meet daily needs. Eating extra protein in food or supplement form does NOT increase muscle mass; only exercise can do that.
- Carbohydrates help provide quick energy. Foods including grains, rice, pasta, fruits, and vegetables are good sources of carbohydrates. This is one group of foods that most people should eat more of. Try to include lots of whole grain products, because they have the added bonus of fiber and higher concentration of certain vitamins and minerals.
- Fats provide most of the energy for the body's work and serve as a storage form of energy from other foods. While some fat is essential, too much can increase you risk for heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. Current recommendations are to limit fat intake to no more than 30% of your total calories. To figure that out, divide the number of calories you eat by 30. The answer is your upper limit in fat grams per day.
- Vitamins and Minerals are required in very small amounts. Taking supplements will not make a bad diet any better. Scientists are learning that it is sometimes special components of foods that have the beneficial effects we once attributed to vitamins. Taking too many supplements over time can actually cause harmful side effects.
- Water - Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially when you work out. Water is the best choice for fluid replacement. Fruit juice and sports drinks are more slowly absorbed and not as effective. Aim for a minimum of 6‑8 glasses of non‑caffeine containing fluids a day to meet your body's water needs. Add more if you exercise or if the weather is warm.