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- American Heart Association: How Do I Follow a Healthy Diet?; August 2010
- American Heart Association: Download Portion Control
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The five food groups are categories of foods from similar nutritional sources with different benefits to the human body. You should draw from these convenient U.S. Department of Agriculture groupings every day, to form a balanced diet. Doing so will provide the wide variety of nutrients that are essential to daily metabolism and that provide energy for workouts. Eating the right amounts of these foods will help you to control your calorie intake and to maintain a healthy weight.
Grains include foods made from wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn and rice, which you should add to your menus in six to eight servings per day. For broad nutrition, vary your food choices among ½-cup servings of cooked cereal, rice and pasta, and 1-cup portions of cereal flakes, as per the American Heart Association, or AHA 3. What does 1 cup look like? Picture filling up the volume of your closed fist. Follow the suggested serving sizes on food labels for breads, tortillas, crackers and snack chips.
Four to five servings of different kinds of vegetables add to your fiber, vitamin and mineral totals every day. The AHA defines veggie servings as ½ cup of juiced, raw or cooked vegetables, such as carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and spinach. Eat 1 cup of uncooked leafy greens, such as lettuce or cabbage.
You need four to five fruit portions per day as well to achieve your totals of fiber and vitamin C. Enjoy one whole baseball-sized fruit, such as an apple or peach, or ½ cup of juiced, fresh, frozen or canned fruits, such as oranges, cantaloupe, berries or pears. Consume dried fruit, with its concentrated sugars, in smaller ¼-cup quantities.
Get your calcium from two to three servings of milk, yogurt or cheese each day. The USDA notes that many Americans don’t get enough calcium in their diets. If you don’t drink milk, make a point of adding low-fat yogurt and cheese to your everyday meal plan. Serve 1 cup of milk or yogurt and 1-1/2 oz., or 1 to 2 slices, of cheese
While other foods contain protein, fish, meats and beans have the highest proportions of protein. Nuts and seeds in this group are considered important moderate protein sources for their additional vitamin E, minerals and monounsaturated fats. Eat up to two 3-ounce servings of fish and meats, the size of a deck of playing cards, per day. Eat four to five servings of: ½ cup of cooked beans, lentils or peas; 1-1/2 ounces of nuts; and ½ ounce of seeds per week.
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