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RDA Healthy Diet

By Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.

Part of eating a healthy diet includes meeting the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for your life cycle stage by consuming healthy foods. RDA were set by the Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board and were established to help meet the needs of 97 to 98 percent of people in each population group. Adequate intakes (AI) are available in place of RDA when insufficient evidence exists to establish an RDA. RDA and AI are available for macronutrients, vitamins and minerals. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, protein and fat. RDA numbers exist for carbohydrates and protein and adequate intakes are in place for dietary fats.


In most cases, you can meet RDA levels by consuming a healthy diet without the use of supplementation. However, a health care provider may recommend multivitamin supplements for certain population groups such as infants, children, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women and vegetarians to ensure all RDA and AI are met.


The RDA for carbohydrates for children ages 1 and up and adults is 130 grams per day. The carbohydrate RDA for pregnant and nursing women is 175 grams and 210 grams per day, respectively. Healthy carbohydrates are obtained from foods such as whole grains; pasta; rice; cereals; potatoes; starchy vegetables, such as corn and peas; legumes; fruits; milk and yogurt.


Protein RDA are as follows: 71 grams per day for pregnant and nursing women, 46 grams per day for other adult women, 56 grams per day for adult men, 46 grams for girls ages 14 to 18, 52 grams for boys ages 14 to 18, 34 grams for kids ages 9 to 13, 19 grams for kids ages 4 to 8, 13 grams for kids ages 1 to 3 and 11 grams per day for infants ages 7 to 12 months. Healthy protein foods include lean meats, seafood, poultry, dairy products, breast milk or infant formulas, legumes, soy products, nuts and seeds.


Adequate intakes are available for total dietary fat for infants and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for infants, children and adults. The AI for total fat for infants is 30 grams per day for ages 0 to 6 months and 31 grams per day for ages 7 to 12 months. AI for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids vary by age and gender. Healthy fats that generally include omega-3s or omega-6s include fish oil; vegetable oils, such as olive and canola oils; soybean oil; avocados; peanut butter; nuts and seeds. Unhealthy solid fats that should be avoided or limited in a healthy diet include high-fat meats; butter; cream; lard; shortening; whole milk; ice cream and certain oils such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oils.

Vitamins and Minerals

RDA and AI for vitamins and minerals vary by age and gender. The U.S. Department of Agriculture website provides a list of all essential vitamins and minerals including vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin K, biotin, pantothenic acid, choline, iron, iodine, calcium, copper, chromium, fluoride, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, molybdenum, selenium, zinc, potassium, sodium and chloride and their daily recommended intakes. Vitamin and mineral requirements are generally met by consuming a variety of healthy foods including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy protein foods, dairy products, nuts, seeds and oils.

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