Authored by Debra Cornelius in Nutrition
Published on 09-21-2009
We are privileged in this country to have a variety of food options. Unfortunately, that often leads to confusion over exactly how to best meet our daily nutritional requirements.
Any recommendations or guidelines for establishing daily nutritional requirements are only recommendations and starting points. Daily nutritional requirements needs vary greatly based on age, weight, health conditions and even gender. Finding your individual nutritional requirements is best done with guidance by your doctor and a nutritional adviser.
The US Department of Health and Resources has information available in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines are updated every 5 years with the most recent version due to be published in 2010. These recommended guidelines are for healthy individuals from age 2 years old and up and are based on a 2000 calorie intake which includes a balance of all foods groups with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables. It is important to take your individual health and lifestyle activities into consideration when determining your calorie needs. Remember these recommendations are only guidelines.
- Fruits and vegetables: 2-3 cups per day – Make sure this includes as much variety as possible.
- Whole grains: 3 or more ounces a day based on individual calorie needs. At least half of these should be whole grains, while the remaining may include enriched varieties of whole-grain products.
- Dairy products: At least 3 cups or the equivalent, per day of low-fat milk or milk products.
- Fats: Less than 10% of fat intake should come from saturated fats. Avoid trans fats as much as possible. Most sources of fat should come from fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
- Sodium: It is recommended that salt intake be less than 2,300 mg per day. That is equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt. Many processed foods contain sodium in huge amounts. Read labels carefully and avoid adding salt when preparing foods as much as possible.
- Potassium: Choose a wide selection of fruits and vegetables to make sure you are getting a good source of potassium in your diet.
- A healthy balance of food choices based on your individual calorie needs should include 45-65% carbohydrates, 20-35% fats and 10-35% protein.
It is important to obtain your nutritional needs from food sources as they are easily metabolized. Nutrients from healthy food options are available to your body as soon as possible. A daily multivitamin may be taken if your food choices aren’t varied or there are certain food groups you can’t tolerated for some reason.
Poor dietary choices have led to a huge increase in morbid obesity and obesity-related health risks. Conditions such diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease can be greatly reduced with attention to proper nutrition combined with a regular form of physical activity.
Most Americans consume excess calories without adequately meeting their nutritional needs. This is because the wide availability in highly processed, convenience foods strips away most nutritional value. By simply replacing snack and convenience foods with more fruits and vegetables the overall nutritional value in your daily food options will be improved. Simple changes to replace empty calories found in processed foods go a long way in meeting daily nutritional requirements.
There are many good nutritional sites available with calculators you can use to determine your calorie needs. Using that information, you can then design a food plan that works for you and your family. Educate yourself in options to obtain the maximum health and nutritional benefits available. Using the recommended guidelines is a great place to start but the day to day choice remains yours. The choices you make today to meet your daily nutritional needs will impact your health for years to come.
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans-2005. U.S. Department of Health and Human Service/ U.S. Department of Agriculture.