Healthy Eating Fundamentals
Let's face it. Eating healthy is tough. And in this Land of Opportunity, there is no greater opportunity than the opportunity to eat unhealthy food. But with a little effort and a dose of education, a healthy diet can be yours.
How Much Should I Eat?
To know how much you should eat, it's important to understand calories. Calories are a meaure of energy, and generally used as a measure of how much energy is in food. On nutrition labels, the number of calories in a serving of food shows how much enengy is in that food. This is important because your body needs a certain amount of energy (i.e. calories) every day. So another way of thinking about how much to eat is to ask the question: how many calories should I eat?
Sources of Calories
Calories come from fat, protein, and carbohydrates:
- 1g Fat: 9 calories
- 1g Protein: 4 calories
- 1g Carbs: 4 calories
How Many Calories Should I Eat?
Good question. You've probably seen nutrition labels that say the average diet is 2000 calories per day. That's true. But very few people are perfectly average. The amount of calories you need each day depends. It depends on your age, height, sex, level of exercise, speed of your metabolism, and many other factors. Below is a calorie chart to help you determine generally how many calories you should eat each day. If you would like a customized daily caloric intake level and have a few minutes, check out Dr. Larsen's Healthy Body Calculator.
Daily Calorie Requirements:
|Amount of Exercise||Male||Female|
|Sendentary (Less than 30 minutes on most days)||2200-2400||1600-2000|
|Active (Between 30-60 minutes on most days)||2400-2800||1800-2200|
|Super Active (More than 60 minutes on most days)||2600-3200||2200-2400|
Amount of Calories in Food
Most of the food we buy today is labeled with nutrition facts. However, if you find yourself eating and unable to check the package--because, for example, you are eating out, there are still ways to find out nutrition facts. If you are want to know more about a restaurant's food, go to their website, it usually has good information. if you want to know how many calories are in a serving foods in general, check out these websites:
What Should I Eat? The Pyramid
Well, remember the food pyramid? That's a useful place to start. Generally, it's imporatant to eat grains, fruits, and vegetables frequently and sweets and desserts sparingly. And with the food pyramid's new facelift--found at MyPyramid.gov--the food pyramid is actually a useful tool in learning about the appropriate diet.
From Eat, Drink, And Be Healthy by Walter C. Willett, M.D. Copyright © 2001, 2005 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
But the new pyramid has some shortcomings, including lumping refined sugars together with complex carbohydrates and recommending drinking three glasses of milk a day, which can give millions of lactose intolerant Americans stomach problems. For these reasons, we recommend using the Harvard School of Public Health Healthy Eating Pyramid. Take a minute to look through the pyramid. It provides a good first answer to the question, what should I eat.
Why Should I Eat These Foods?
To answer that question, we need to take a look at the building blocks of a healthy diet: Carbohydrates, Fat, and Protein. Let's start with Carbohydrates...