Eat Well, Exercise Well, Be Well: Dietary and Fitness Guidelines
by Marjorie Montemayor-Quellenberg, MA
When it comes to the secrets of living a healthy life, it seems that there are no secrets. From diet gurus to celebrities, everyone seems to have the answers on healthy living. Since the 1980s, the United States government has also thrown in its two cents, with dietary guidelines that it publishes every five years. The intent is to provide research-backed diet and physical activity recommendations to reduce the risk of diseases linked to poor diet and activity, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Here is a round-up of the government’s latest key recommendations from the publication, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.
Calories, Calories, Calories
In recent years, obesity has been a national concern, since it has been associated with serious conditions like cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Controlling total calorie intake is essential to maintaining ideal body weight. If you are trying to lose weight, you will need to expend more calories than you take in. This means getting plenty of exercise and cutting down on foods high in calories.
So how many calories should you be consuming? This depends on several factors, such as age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level. To keep calories under control, you want to focus on eating foods full of many nutrients, especially potassium, fiber, vitamin D, and calcium. You may want to talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian about an eating plan that is right for you. In general, try to keep calories in check. Aim to meet calorie needs, but not exceed them. Reducing portion size and eating more meals at home are great ways to avoid exceeding calorie needs. In addition, eating foods high in nutrients but lower in calories can help.
Foods to Enjoy
Food to Eat Less
Preparing Your Plate
Remembering which foods to limit, and which to eat more of, may be daunting. To help you remember, the United States Department of Agriculture created a simple image of a sectioned plate as a guideline for healthy eating. The MyPlate guidelines emphasize nutrient-dense foods and beverages, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk, beans, and nuts. If remembering how much and what to eat is a chore, you can just keep these simple things in mind to ensure that you are eating well when you sit down for a meal:
You can find specific information on the http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ website.
Exercise Well TOP
A nutritious diet and exercise go together for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity each week. Some examples of activities are brisk walking, biking, and swimming. Before starting any kind of exercise program be sure to check with your doctor if you have any health issues that may limit your exercise program.
Be Well TOP
Guidelines provide the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. But living a healthy lifestyle takes discipline and a positive attitude. Working with your doctor and perhaps other professionals, like a dietitian or fitness trainer, can be helpful in keeping you motivated and on track for reaching your health goals. Also, a healthy lifestyle should not be a chore, but something enjoyable.
Make exercise fun—a weekend hike, a lunch-hour walk with co-workers, or a pick-up game of basketball with your neighbor are just some ideas. And when mealtimes roll around, put on your creative chef hat! Come up with new approaches to breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus that incorporate fresh, nutrient-dense foods, and get friends and family involved in preparing meals. Experiment with herbs and spices to flavor your meals instead of the old salt standby. Armed with guidance, support, and motivation, a healthy lifestyle is within your reach!
American Dietetic Association
United States Department of Agriculture
Canada's Food Guide
Dietitians of Canada
ChooseMyPlate.gov. United States Department of Agriculture, ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/. Updated June 14, 2011. Accessed June 20, 2011.
Dietary guidelines for Americans. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, United States Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/. Accessed March 23, 2011.
United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th ed. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office; December 2010.
Last reviewed April 2011 by Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD
Last Updated: 6/20/2011