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Generally, a healthy diet is a balance of food elements necessary for good health.  A healthy diet contains enough calories to maintain a person’s metabolic needs, but not enough calories to cause fat storage.  Some fat is necessary, but saturated fats and trans fats should be avoided.  Carbohydrates and lipids in proper ratio should be consumed.  Enough proteins which contain amino acids should be consumed so that cells can be replenished.  Vitamins, minerals, and fiber are essential to a healthy diet.  A proper diet severely limits consumption of refined sugar and salt, cholesterol, and refined carbohydrates.    

The recently revised USDA food pyramid recommends eating three ounces per day of whole grain cereal, bread, crackers, rice, or pasta.  The key word is “whole.”  The pyramid also recommends dark green vegetables, such as spinach or broccoli, and orange vegetables, such as carrots and pumpkin.  Eat dry beans or peas, such pintos or garbanzos.  A healthy diet should include a variety of fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit, but drink few fruit juices because of the added sugar.  Fats should come from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils, not from margarine, shortening, lard, or butter.  Fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt should be part of a healthy diet.  Protein sources, such as lean meats or poultry should be broiled, baked, or grilled, rather than fried.  Fish, nuts, and seeds can also supply protein.

For a middle-aged adult female of average height and weight who exercises 30 minutes a day, the USDA recommends an 1800-calorie diet.  The diet consists of 6 ounces of whole grains, 2 ½ cups of vegetables, 1 ½ cups of fruits, 3 cups of dairy products, and 5 ounces of meat of beans.  This is not a weight-loss diet, but rather a maintenance diet.  To lose weight the USDA recommends increasing the amount of exercise and decreasing the amounts of dairy products and meat in the diet plan.

A healthy diet should balance the amount of energy consumed in food with the amount of energy expended in physical activity.  An imbalance one way of another will result in weight gain or loss.  A person who eats a balanced diet, controls the size of portions, and is moderately active should not have a weight problem.

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