Do I Have a Balanced Diet?

By Janet Potts, RD, LD



Most nutrition experts agree that eating a balanced diet containing a wide variety of foods is the best way to get your daily quotas of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need. Individual needs vary depending on age, sex and activity. An excellent reference for choosing the foods and amounts that are right for you can be found in the MyPyramid plan at MyPyramid.gov. On this site, you can simply type in your age, sex and physical activity level to obtain your own personalized plan.


Here’s a quick quiz to help you rate your eating habits (amounts shown are for most healthy, active adults). On most days, do you:


1. Eat at least 6 to 8 ounce equivalents of grains, half of those coming from whole grain sources?
In general, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal can be considered as 1 ounce equivalent. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel. Examples include whole-wheat breads, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat cereal flakes.
Yes: 3 No: 0


2. Eat at least 2-3 cups of vegetables?
Vegetables may be cooked or raw, or 100% vegetable juice. For raw, leafy greens, count 2 cups as a serving.
Yes: 3 No: 0


3. Eat at least 2 cups of fruit?
Fruits may be fresh, frozen, canned or juices. Count ½ cup dried fruit as 1 cup.
Yes: 3 No: 0


4. Consume at least 3 cups of milk?
The following count as 1 cup: 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese, 2 ounces of processed cheese.
Yes: 3 No: 0


5. Eat 5-6 ounce equivalents of meat or beans?
Here’s what counts as an ounce equivalent: 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked dry beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce equivalent from the meat and beans group.
Yes: 3 No: 0


6. Do you usually eat the same foods every day?
Yes: 0 No: 3


7. Do you frequently skip meals or miss out on entire food groups for an entire day?
Yes: 0 No: 3


Scoring:

15 points or more:

Congratulations! You’re making some good choices when it comes to balance and variety.


9-12 points:

You’re on your way. Fine-tuning your choices could help you get more nutrients.


0-9 points:

Time to make some changes. Try focusing on one food group at a time. Make small changes to gradually improve your eating habits.





Researchers are discovering ever increasing numbers and types of phytochemicals, plant compounds that appear to promote health by reducing disease risk, including risk of cancer and heart disease. For instance, there are more than 170 phytochemicals in an orange! Duplicating all of these phytochemicals through supplements is simply not likely.



And of course, not all foods are created equal when it comes to nutrient value. For example, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, think color. Researchers show that foods with rich natural colors contain more phytochemicals. For example:



• Red foods like tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit contain lycopene, which may aid in the prevention of cancer and heart disease.


• Orange foods like pumpkins, carrots, sweet potatoes and oranges contain beta-carotene, which aids in the prevention of cancer.


• Yellow and green foods like squash and broccoli aid in the prevention of cancer and vision loss.



Choose whole grains for added benefit to your diet. These can help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, several forms of cancer and some gastrointestinal problems. Check for “whole” or “whole grain” in the label. Phrases like “stone ground,” “cracked wheat” and “wheat flour” don’t guarantee the presence of whole grain. Whole grain varieties include wheat, oats, rye, corn, barley, spelt, groats, wheat berries, millet and flaxseed.



Remember, Saladmaster cookware helps ensure that more nutrients get to our bodies by using less heat, shortening cooking times and cooking without excess water or fat. But it’s up to each of us to bring good choices to the cookware.





 

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