Healthy Diet

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Discuss suggestions for maintaining a healthy diet including the use of Food Guide Pyramids and Exchange Lists in the design of a balanced diet.

Healthy Diet


A healthy diet should be high in vegetables, fruits, and legumes, with plenty of lean protein and moderate portions of unprocessed whole grains and healthy fats. Eat at least 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Choose nutrient-dense foods that contribute to health, instead of processed and sugary 'empty calorie' foods. (Basiotis, 2007) The Food Pyramid, developed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), is an excellent tool to help you make healthy food choices. The food pyramid can help you choose from a variety of foods so you get the nutrients you need, and the suggested serving sizes can help you control the amount of calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar or sodium in your diet.


Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy. They contain the elements Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen. The first part of the name "carbo-" means that they contain Carbon. The second part of the name "-hydr-" means that they contain Hydrogen. The third part of the name "-ate-" means that they contain Oxygen. In all carbohydrates the ratio of Hydrogen atoms to Oxygen atoms is 2:1 just like water. (Ashton, 2008)

We obtain most of our carbohydrate in the form of starch. This is found in potato, rice, spaghetti, yams, bread and cereals. Our digestive system turns all this starch into another carbohydrate called glucose. Glucose is carried around the body in the blood and is used by our tissues as a source of energy. (See my pages on respiration and balanced chemical equations.) Any glucose in our food is absorbed without the need for digestion. We also get some of our carbohydrate in the form of sucrose; this is the sugar which we put in our tea and coffee (three heaped spoonfuls for me!). Both sucrose and glucose are sugars, but sucrose molecules are too big to get into the blood, so the digestive system turns it into glucose.

Bread, Grain, Cereal and Pasta Form the Base

At the base of the food pyramid, you’ll see the group that contains breads, grains, cereals and pastas. These foods provide complex carbohydrates, which are an important source of energy, especially for a low-fat meal plan. You can make many low-fat choices from foods in this group. You’ll need 6 to 11 servings of these foods in a day. One serving of this group can be: (Ludwig, 2006)

1 slice of bread

1/2 cup of rice, cooked cereal or pasta

1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal

1 flat tortilla

Try to eat whole-grain breads, cereal and pasta for most of your servings from this group. Whole-grain foods (which are made with whole wheat flour) are less processed and retain more valuable vitamins, minerals and fiber than foods made with white flour. When you purchase whole-grain foods, look for breads and pastas with "stoneground whole wheat flour" as the first ingredient, because some "wheat" breads may be white ...
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