Sunday, August 16, 2015

What is a Healthy Diet and How Do Our Nutritional Needs Change?

So what should we eat to remain healthy?  The United States Department of Agriculture gives us tips on eating a healthy diet.  "Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products are healthy choices.  Include protein foods such as poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts and lean meats. Choose foods that are low in saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars" (USDA, ChooseMyPlate, Men and Women).  The FDA's website, Choose My Plate, will help you understand these food groups and how much per day you should be consuming.

Eating canned and prepackaged foods  is probably inevitable for most people so it is important to get familiar with what is in the canned and prepackaged foods that we buy.  According to the FDA, more than half of Americans read food labels the first time that they purchase it (FDA, Survey Shows Gains in Food Label Use, Health/Diet Awareness).  Food labels tell us how many calories per serving the food contains, as well as the percentage of sugars, fats, vitamins and nutrients.  

Our nutritional needs change at different stages of our lives.  

Pregnancy – Pregnancy is a time when special care should be taken to make sure nutritional needs are met.  The instinct to love and protect one’s child is so strong that many women will make healthy lifestyle changes that they will carry out throughout the rest of their lives.  During pregnancy, the focus is not only on the nutritional needs of the mother, but also the nutritional needs of the developing baby.  Most doctors will prescribe a special multi-vitamin, in addition to encouraging a healthy diet, to make sure that the mother is taking in the needed amount of vitamins and minerals.  During pregnancy a woman needs approximately 2-3 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, 6 ounces of protein, whole grain foods and milk (Seizer, Whitney, 2014).  Each woman is different and should consult with her doctor on the right amounts of these foods to meet her, and her baby’s, particular needs
Infancy – Infants experience a tremendous amount of growth and development during the first year so their nutritional needs are special.  Breast milk or formula provides an infant with all it will need nutritionally for the first four to six months, but should continue to be given breast mild or formula until 12 months old (March of Dimes, Feeding Your Baby).  Babies should start out eating iron fortified cereals and as they further develop be introduced to pureed baby foods and then later breads and soft cooked vegetables and fruits, and pureed meats (March of Dimes, Feeding Your Baby).
Childhood – During childhood we continue to experience tremendous growth and development.  Beginning at age 2, children need approximately 1000 calories a day.  By age four this increases to about 1200 for females and 1400 for males.  At age nine it increases to 1400 for females and 1600 or males (Seizer, Whitney, 2014).  These calories should be obtained by consuming healthy cooked proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy (Mayo Clinic, Children’s Health).
Adolescence – Depending on their energy output, female adolescents require between 1600 and 2400 calories a day.  Male adolescents require between 1800 and 3200 calories a day (California Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Adolescents.  Adolescent Nutrition).  Carbohydrates, protein, fat and fiber are important foods for adolescents to consume to provide energy.  Adolescents should also consume appropriate amounts of vegetables and fruits daily.  
Adulthood – The amount of calories an adult needs depends on their activity level.  A very active adult will require more calories than an adult that leads a more sedentary life style.  Sedentary adults require about 1600 calories a day, moderately active adults require about 2200 calories a day and very active adults require about 2800 calories a day (University of Georgia Department of Agriculture.  Nutrient Needs for Adults).  These dietary needs should be retrieved from healthy cooked vegetables, fruits, grains, and proteins. 
When we alter our diets by including unhealthy food selections and leave out the recommended heathy foods, we set ourselves up for lack of energy and undesirable physical and mental health conditions,


California Nutrition and Physical activity Guidelines for Adolescents.  Adolescent Nutrition.
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Mayo Clinic.  Children’s Health
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March of Dimes.  Feeding Your Baby.

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University of Georgia Department of Agriculture.  Nutrient Needs for Adults

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USDA.  Choose My Plate.  Men and Women.
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U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Survey Shows Gains in Food Label Use, Health/Diet Awareness).

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