Knowing how much fat, protein and carbohydrates to eat can be difficult with all the conflicting diet plans and eating recommendations. To make matters more difficult, low-fat and low-carb diets have given the impression that fat and carbs are bad, when in fact they play an important role in good health. The trick to good nutrition is to eat in moderation and choose fresh, whole, unprocessed foods.
Eat 25 to 35 percent of your calories from fat, per the Institute of Medicine recommended guidelines. Unflavored nuts, natural nut butters, avocados and olives are good sources of fat. Use olive oil, canola, peanut or sesame oil when cooking. Avoid saturated fats, partially hydrogenated oil and trans fats, which can increase your risk of heart disease.
Eat approximately 25 to 35 percent of your calories from protein. Choose lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, beans, eggs and low-fat or fat-free dairy. Avoid fatty protein options such as red meat and bacon, which are high in saturated fat.
Eat 25 percent of your calories from grain carbs and the remaining calories from fruit and vegetables, which also have carbs. Choose whole grains such as whole-wheat bread and brown rice over white, processed options. Focus on filling up with fiber carbs, while limiting sugar and starch carbs that increase your risk of metabolic problems such as diabetes.
Monitor calorie intake. While choosing quality foods is important to good health, eating too much of a good thing can still lead to weight gain. The health percentages of fat, protein and carbs mentioned previously assume you're also eating the correct number of calories for your age, gender and activity level. Men need 2,400 to 3,000 calories and women need 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Use the USDA's Choose My Plate as a guideline for how much from each food group you should have at your meals. About half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables with the other made up of protein and whole grains.
Discuss your diet needs with a doctor before starting a new eating plan.