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A Balanced Diet

The USDA’s food pyramid contains government guidelines that suggest making personalized food decisions rather than suggesting a “one size fits all” approach. These guidelines are based on a variety of factors including age, sex and level of physical activity. The USDA guidelines are for anyone over the age of two and may not apply to specific health conditions. Also, these guidelines are not intended to replace the advice of your personal physician.

physical activity. Find your balance between food and physical activity. Adults should be active for at least 30 minutes on most days, while children and teens need more exercise, at least 60 minutes daily.

orange (grains). Half of all grain-based foods should be whole grain, such as bread, cereal, crackers or rice. Food manufacturers have made this easier for shoppers. Many pastas, crackers and chips have whole grain options made from whole wheat, brown rice, oats or spelt. Many whole grain flour varieties are also easy to find. (average daily recommendations: women – 5 to 6 ounces; men – 6 to 8 ounces)

green (vegetables). Vegetables should be varied with more emphasis on green and orange varieties. Dried beans and peas should also be incorporated and can easily be added to vegetable dishes or used on their own in soups, salads and side dishes. (average daily recommendations: women – 2 to 2-1/2 cups; men – 2-1/2 to 3 cups)

red (fruits). Focus on a variety of fruits while limiting juice consumption. Fruit makes for a healthy snack and can also be used for desserts or blended into smoothies. (average daily recommendations: women – 1-1/2 to 2 cups; men – 2 cups)

yellow (oils). Fats should be from sources of fish, nuts and vegetable oils while using solid fats (e.g. butter, margarine and shortening) in moderation. Olive oil can replace butter on bread and toast, or use a nut butter made from almonds, peanuts or cashews. (daily allowance: women – 5 to 6 teaspoons; men – 6 to 7 teaspoons)

blue (milk). Milk should be low fat or fat free. For those with lactose allergies, try lactose-free products as well as other calcium-rich sources. Low fat yogurt and sour cream are healthier substitutes for mayonnaise in salads and dips. (average daily recommendations: women and men – 3 cups)

purple (meat & beans). Lean cuts of meat, fish, nuts, seeds, beans and peas are the recommended sources of protein. Nuts and seeds give a protein boost to snacks, while beans can be used to reduce the amount of meat used in recipes such as stews, casseroles and soups. (average daily recommendations: women – 5 to 5-1/2 ounces; men – 5-1/2 to 6-1/2 ounces)

Interactive resources can be found on the USDA MyPyramid website. Obtain personalized recommendations for daily caloric intake based on age, gender and physical activity. Find more information @ www.MyPyramid.gov