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What It Means To Eat Healthy

What does it mean to eat healthy?
Growing children, teenage girls, and women have higher needs for some nutrients:
Where do vitamin, mineral, and fiber supplements fit in?
Other Resources

What does it mean to eat healthy?
Eating healthy means feeding your body all the nutrients it needs to sustain your daily activities. You need more than 40 different nutrients for good health. Essential nutrients include vitamins, minerals, amino acids from protein, certain FATTY ACIDS from fat, and sources of calories (protein, carbohydrates, and fat).

Different foods contain different nutrients and other healthful substances. No single food can supply all the nutrients in the amounts you need. For example, oranges provide vitamin C and folate but no vitamin B12 ; cheese provides calcium and vitamin B12 but no vitamin C. To make sure you get all the nutrients and other substances you need for health, build a healthy base by using the Food Guide Pyramid as a starting point. Choose the recommended number of daily servings from each of the five major food groups.

pyramid The nutrients you need are all covered by using the food pyramid as a guide and eating from each of the five food groups:

Quick Eating Healthy Tips:
  • Eat a variety of foods
  • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Choose a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and grain products
  • Use sugars only in moderation
  • Use salt and sodium only in moderation
  • More healthy eating tips
If your diet does not include all the food groups and all the nutrients you need, seek guidance. Talk to your doctor, campus nutritionist or dietitian, student health clinic, or find a dietitian near you.

If you want to use interactive online tools to plan a better diet, visit Calorie Calculator, Create-a-Diet, Interactive Healthy Eating Index, Interactive Menu Planner, and Rate Your Health Habits. [ To Top ]

Growing children, teenage girls, and women have higher needs for some nutrients:

Adolescents and adults over age 50 have an especially high need for calcium, but most people need to eat plenty of good sources of calcium for healthy bones throughout life. When selecting dairy products to get enough calcium, choose those that are low in fat or fat-free to avoid getting too much saturated fat. Young children, teenage girls, and women of childbearing age need enough good sources of iron, such as lean meats and cereals with added nutrients, to keep up their iron stores. Women who could become pregnant need extra folic acid.

For a woman in your age range, the USDA recommends the following daily servings:(1)

Recommended Daily Intake
Food Group Most women (1600 calories/day) Teen girls, active women (2200 calories/day)
Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta Group (Grains Group) -- especially whole grain 6 servings 9 servings
Vegetable Group 3 4
Fruit Group 2 3
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group (Milk Group) -- preferably fat free or low fat 2 3 (if 18 years old or below);
2 (if 19-50 years old);
during pregnancy and lactation, the recommended number of milk group servings is the same as for nonpregnant women
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts Group (Meat and Beans Group) -- preferably lean or low fat 2, for a total of 5 ounces 2, for a total of 6 ounces
Fats saturated fat: 18 grams or less;
total fat: 53 grams or less
saturated fat: 24 grams or less;
total fat: 73 grams or less
Cholesterol 300 milligrams or less 300 milligrams or less
Sugars 6 teaspoons or less 12 teaspoons or less
Salt and Sodium 2400 milligrams 2400 milligrams
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Where do vitamin, mineral, and fiber supplements fit in?

Some people need a vitamin-mineral supplement to meet specific nutrient needs. For example, women who could become pregnant are advised to eat foods fortified with folic acid or to take a folic acid supplement in addition to consuming folate-rich foods to reduce the risk of some serious birth defects. People with little exposure to sunlight may need a vitamin D supplement. People who seldom eat dairy products or other rich sources of calcium need a calcium supplement, and people who eat no animal foods need to take a vitamin B12 supplement. Sometimes vitamins or minerals are prescribed for meeting nutrient needs or for therapeutic purposes. For example, health care providers may advise pregnant women to take an iron supplement.

Supplements of some nutrients, such as vitamin A and selenium, can be harmful if taken in large amounts. Because foods contain many substances that promote health, use the Food Guide Pyramid when choosing foods. Don't depend on supplements to meet your usual nutrient needs.

Dietary supplements include not only vitamins and minerals, but also amino acids, fiber, herbal products, and many other substances that are widely available. Herbal products usually provide a very small amount of vitamins and minerals. The value of herbal products for health is currently being studied. Standards for their purity, potency, and composition are being developed.

Adjusting your diet to your special needs:

Design a new eating plan:
  • Campus Health Center
  • Contact campus dietitian
  • The National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics' Consumer Nutrition Hotline at 1-800-366-1655
  • Your doctor
  • Find a dietitian near you
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[1]Adapted from,,

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Other Resources

National Cholesterol Education Program
NHLBI Information Center
P.O. Box 30105
Bethesda, MD 20824-010

American Heart Association

Lactose Intolerance and Celiac Sprue
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
Bethesda, MD 20892

American Dietetic Association
216 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60606-6995
1-800-366-1655 (recorded messages)
1-900-225-5267 (to talk to a registered dietitian)
provides fact sheets on general nutrition (also in Spanish)

Food and Drug Administration
Food Information Line
(202) 205-4314 in the Washington, D.C., area

Food Allergy Network
10400 Eaton Place, Suite 107
Fairfax, VA 22030

American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
85 W. Algonquin Road, Suite 550
Arlington Heights, IL 60005

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
1125 15th Street, N.W., Suite 502
Washington, DC 20036
800-7-ASTHMA [ To Top ]

This website is an information resource center and does not provide medical advice.
Information from website should not be a substitute
for medical advice from a health care professional.