Nutritious Eating Fuels An Active Lifestyle

Family schedules have never been busier, and that can make regular nutritious eating a challenge. We have dietary tips from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help your family eat right for energy now and long-term health in the future.

When the sound of the alarm clock is your starting gun for a race from breakfast through a busy workday followed by carpooling the kids to after-school activities, the drive-through and the pizza delivery number can look pretty tempting. Burgers and pizza may be fast, but they do not provide the nutritious fuel you and your family need to perform at your best through the day.

Eating right is about more than staying alert during your waking hours; a steady diet of processed fast food can have serious health consequences over time.

Admittedly, eating well is not as convenient as eating fast—and understanding how to eat well isn’t easy either. We are inundated with claims made by trendy diets, magical superfoods, and dueling nutritional opinions. However, learning how to select healthful foods is worth the trouble, and is one of the most critical things you can do to establish preventative health benefits and long-term savings on medical care.

What does nutritious eating look like? The USDA MyPlate icon, updated to reflect the latest in nutritional research, shows you exactly what should be on your plate to give you the nutrients you need to fuel your busy life:

  • One-quarter of your plate should be filled with a cup of colorful vegetables like broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, squash, cabbage, or peppers. If you prefer, you could have two cups of raw leafy greens like spinach, kale, or lettuce.
  • One-quarter of your plate holds a serving of whole grains: one slice of whole-wheat bread, half a cup of brown rice, half a cup of whole-wheat pasta, or three cups of popped popcorn.
  • One-quarter of your plate is devoted to a cup of fruit; your choices might be applesauce, grapes, pears, watermelon, raisins, prunes, dried apricots, or another favorite fruit.
  • One-quarter of your plate is reserved for protein, which could be a small chicken breast, a salmon steak, 12 almonds, a cup of lentil soup, or a quarter cup of cooked black beans.
  • On the side, the MyPlate guidelines recommend a serving of low-fat dairy, which might be a cup of milk or yogurt, a half cup of ricotta cheese, or one and a half cups of low-fat or fat-free ice cream.
  • A daily allowance of fat is also important. Our age and gender tell us how much fat we need every day. The appropriate serving of fat for children ranges from 3 to 6 teaspoons. Adults need between 5 and 7 teaspoons. We can get the fat we need from oils like olive oil, or in fat-rich foods like avocados, peanut butter, dressings, and nuts.

A nutritious diet takes a little planning and a bit of preparation, but these are time investments that pay huge rewards in better health. For more information about nutritious food options and tools to help you improve your family’s diet, check out the USDA MyPlate website.

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