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Most people know that to stay healthy we should eat a balanced diet. But what, exactly, is ‘balanced’?

Generally, a healthy diet is rich in plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and low in fat and sugar. One easy way to try and follow this diet is to follow the Food Guide Pyramid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According the Pyramid, your daily diet should include:

  • Two to three servings from the milk, yogurt, and cheese group (one cup of milk or one cup of yogurt would be one serving).
  • Two to three servings from the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts group (one serving would be two eggs, ½ cup of tuna fish, or about 1/2 of a skinless, cooked chicken breast).
  • Two to four servings from the fruit group (one serving would be a medium-sized apple or banana, 1/2 cup of canned fruit, or 1/4 cup of dried fruit).
  • Three to five servings from the vegetable group (one serving would be 1/2 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or one cup of raw, leafy vegetables, such as spinach or lettuce).
  • Six to 11 servings from the bread, cereal, rice, and pasta group (one serving would be 1/2 bagel or English muffin, one slice of bread, or 1/2 cup of pasta).

Use fats, oils, and sweets sparingly.

This sounds easy, but most people eat a fair amount of prepared food. Keep in mind that the less processed or prepared the food (or the more ‘whole’ the food), generally the better it is for you.

When you do eat soups, prepared dinners, etc. get into the habit of reading the food labels. This will tell you how many calories and how much salt, fat, and cholesterol the packaged foods contain by portion, or serving size. Ingredients listings are also fun to read: find out what is in your food, and you can always do some homework to find out why it’s put there.

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