Follow Dietary Guidelines
Whether you need to lose or maintain weight, you should make healthy food choices following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These guidelines will improve your health, help you meet your nutrient requirements, and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
The Dietary Guidelines recommend that you get the most nutrition out of the calories you eat. You need nutrients to perform well, maintain wellness, and fight disease. But it is important to get those nutrients without consuming more calories than you need. To do this, you can’t eat too many high-calorie items (defined as foods with more than 400 calories per serving).
You should also eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods each day. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that you:
Use plant foods as the foundation of meals (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains)
Most of the calories in your diet should come from a variety of whole grain products, vegetables, and fruits. Plant foods provide a variety of vitamins and minerals essential for health and most are naturally low in fat.
You might want to pay particular attention to the antioxidant nutrients found in plant foods (e.g., vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin E, and certain minerals) for their potentially beneficial role in reducing the risk for cancer and certain other chronic diseases.
Plant foods, such as whole-grain breads and cereals, vegetables, and fruits provide fiber, which is important for proper bowel function and may lower the risk for heart disease and some cancers. Because there are different types of fiber in foods, choose a variety of foods daily.
Get enough calcium-rich foods
Consume three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk or an equivalent amount of calcium each day through other calcium rich foods or a dietary supplement.
Keep saturated and trans fats low (and keep total fat intake moderate)
Saturated fat and trans fatty acids raise blood cholesterol more than other forms of fat. Keep saturated fats to less than 10 percent of calories and keep trans fatty acids as low as possible. The fats from meat, milk, and milk products are the main sources of saturated fats in most diets, so select lean meats, poultry, fish, and low-fat milk products. Many bakery products are also sources of saturated fats and trans fatty acids, such as palm oil and partially hydrogenated oils.
Fat, whether from plant or animal sources, contains more than twice the number of calories of an equal amount of carbohydrate or protein. Choose a diet that provides no more than 30 percent of total calories from fat.
Restrict sugar and salt
Some foods that contain a lot of sugars supply calories but few or no nutrients. Because maintaining a nutritious diet and a healthy weight is very important, sugars should be used in moderation by most healthy people and sparingly by people with low calorie needs.
Many studies in diverse populations have shown that a high sodium intake is associated with higher blood pressure. Most evidence suggests that many people at risk for high blood pressure reduce their chances of developing this condition by consuming less salt or sodium
Eat moderate portions
Pay particular attention to portion sizes—the portions in restaurants and on food labels are often far larger than recommended for weight management. Be especially careful to limit portion sizes of foods high in calories, such as baked goods, French fries, and fats and oils.
Use alcohol in moderation
Alcohol provides empty calories and is harmful when consumed in excess. Some people should not drink at all, such as children and adolescents, pregnant women, those with liver or other diseases, those taking certain medications that interact with alcohol, and those who can’t restrict their drinking.
Moderation is defined as one drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. (One drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.)
Note that some individuals need to follow special diets to address particular health concerns, such as heart disease. They should follow the diet recommended by their physician.
Also, an individual’s age and health must be factored into their nutritional choices. Growing children, teenagers, women, pregnant women, and older adults have a higher need for some nutrients. For example adult women need almost a third more calcium intake than adult men of similar age.
Don't Forget to Drink Water
Although it is not formally part of the dietary guidelines, it is commonly realized that it is important to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day to help your body's biological processes, especially carrying nutrients to cells and eliminating wastes. It is best to drink purified water, so investigate getting a water purifier for your home if you don't already have one.