Eating Healthy


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Dietary Guidelines for Healthful Eating
Healthful eating is crucial to overall health. Without proper nutrition, the body and mind cannot function to their fullest potential. Poor diet and lack of physical activity account for 300,000 adult deaths per year in the United States. Furthermore, at least four of the ten leading causes of death in the United States are linked to the way people eat. Diseases linked to dietary patterns include heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. Unfortunately, the initial stages of some of these diseases can begin in early childhood or adolescence.

Following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans helps people eat healthfully and obtain all of the nutrients needed for good health. First published in 1980 and updated every five years, the Dietary Guidelines provide recommendations based on the latest scientific and medical research. The first two guidelines, eating a variety of foods and being physically active, help people obtain all of the nutrients the body needs while maintaining a healthy weight. The next two guidelines, choosing a diet low in fat and cholesterol and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, help prevent diseases related to nutrition. The remaining guidelines underscore the need to avoid the foods that are not nutrient-dense, such as sugar and alcohol.

The Guidelines

  • Eat a variety of foods. No single food provides all the nutrients people need. Eating a variety of foods increases the chances of getting all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed for good health.
  • Balance food intake with some physical activity in order to maintain a healthy weight. Combining exercise with healthy eating helps people lose or maintain weight and stay healthy. High body fat can increase the risk of some types of diseases.
  • Choose a diet with plenty of grains, vegetables and fruits. Grains [such as rice, cereal and whole wheat bread], vegetables [such as green beans, broccoli and salads] and fruits [such as bananas, apples and oranges] provide excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and complex carbohydrates. These foods are the foundation of a healthful eating plan.
  • Choose a diet low in fat and cholesterol. Diets high in fat, specifically saturated fat [from animal products] and cholesterol also increase risk of diseases such as heart disease and some types of cancer. In addition, whether from a plant or an animal source, fat is a very high source of calories and needs to be eaten sparingly. A healthful eating plan should consist of no more than 30 percent of calories from fat per day.
  • Choose a diet moderate in sugars. Some foods with sugar, such as candy and soda, contain a lot of Calories without many nutrients. These foods should be used in moderation because they are comprised of empty Calories-Calories that don't add any significant amount of needed nutrients.
  • Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium. Sodium regulates and balances fluids in the body, but too much salt in the diet can affect blood pressure. Eating a diet low in salt may help lower blood pressure levels.
  • Alcohol only in moderation (for adults who choose to use it). Alcohol should not be consumed by children, adolescents, pregnant women, people on prescription or over-the-counter medications and people who plan to drive. Alcohol is legal only for adult use. Many adults cannot moderate their alcohol intake and need to avoid all use of alcohol. Alcohol is also very high in calories and may add unwanted weight. Most importantly, drinking too much alcohol impairs judgment and can lead to alcoholism and other life threatening diseases.

Calories In

The four components that provide calories are protein, fat, carbohydrate, and alcohol.

Calories Out

The energy used by the body is a total of (1) basal metabolic rate (BMR); (2) physical activity; and (3) the digestion of food.

Basal Metabolic Rate - BMR is the amount of energy required by the body to carry on its vital processes while at rest. We are usually unaware of these processes, which include breathing, circulation, glandular activity, cellular metabolism, and the maintenance of body temperature.

The amount of energy expended by physical activity varies depending on the type and length of the activity, and the size of the individual.  The chart below shows estimates of the Calories burned by various activities. 

Energy used in the digestion of food must also be included to determine total energy usage because BMR counts only energy used at complete physical and digestive rest.  It is estimated that food digestion accounts for 10% of the total energy needs of the body.

Nutrition and Health

The poor eating habits of many youth in the United States put them at risk for health problems later in life. More than 84 percent of young people eat too much fat, and 91 percent eat too much saturated fat. Only 20% of youth eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Additionally, one out of five students ages 15 to 18 regularly skips breakfast, which is considered the most important meal of the day.

The benefits of healthful eating include better growth and development; better performance in school; prevention of childhood and adolescent problems such as obesity, eating disorders and cavities; and prevention of major chronic diseases in adulthood such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.

Getting the Most out of Your Food Budget

Smart Shopping

Shopping for groceries when you are unprepared or hungry can lead to overspending and poor nutrition.  Planning menus and preparing a shopping list will help you be more efficient with your time and money.  To make the most of your food dollar, compare nutrients to cost so you can buy the most nutritious food for the least amount of money.  Once you have chosen healthy, nutrient rich foods, then comparison shop using the cost per serving labels on the store shelves.  Convenience should also be considered, although prepared foods are often less nutritious and much more expensive.

Barriers to Healthy Bargain Shopping

Today there are a variety of stores available to shop at.  Knowing what benefits and drawbacks each have can help you select the appropriate store to meet your needs.

Convenience stores are usually located in neighborhoods and are generally open 24 hours.  While there is probably one near your home and they are nice for getting that ‘last-minute’ item or a beverage, selection is limited and prices are almost always significantly higher then traditional supermarkets.

Specialty stores such as butcher shops, bakeries, and delicatessens offer fresher or higher quality; custom items but they only offer particular items in each type specialty.

Supermarkets are less expensive than convenience or specialty stores and offer a wide range of items.  But are often farther away.  This is where most consumers shop for food each week.

Market Challenges

Selecting the store is not the only problem in food shopping.  You may also encounter some challenges once inside the store.  These challenges may prevent you from getting the most for you dollar.  Some challenges include:

·         Food Placement - Marketers strategically place the highest-profit food items on the shelf level where consumers are tempted to buy items they do not really need.  For example, highly sugared cereals are generally placed at eye-level while less-sugary cereals are placed on very low or high shelves.  Often the more nutritious or bargain choices (which are often lower-profit items as well) are difficult to find due to placement.

·         Specials - Items are often displayed with ‘Special’ tags at the ends of aisles or other prominent areas of the store.  Some of these items really are specials and reduced in price; others are selling at their regular price.  Consumers often buy them because they are getting a bargain.  Often the foods placed in this way are not the most nutritious or most economical choices.

·         Cost - Marketers advertise foods as ‘nutritious’, ‘all natural’, or ‘wholesome’ to appeal to the health-conscious consumer.  While many of these products are healthier, more nutritious choices some have no nutritional advantage and cost substantially more than similar products.

Impulse Buying

·         Avoid shopping when you’re hungry.

·         Use a shopping list so you do not buy items you already have or forget items you need.

·         Allow enough time to make good choices.

·         Read food labels for nutrition and content.

·         Be aware of how advertising influences you.

·         Avoid buying things by habit – be flexible.


Money Saving Hints

·         Watch your paper for coupons and savings on items you commonly use.

·         Shop on sale days – different market start sales on different days.

·         Try to shop only once or twice a month.

·         Make a grocery list to direct your shopping – but be flexible on brand.

·         Try not to shop at convenience stores.

·         Minimize use of convenience or prepared foods (TV dinners etc.).

·         Buy larger packages, divide them up into usable portions, and freeze the extra portions.

·         Use cheaper cuts of meat and watch for price cuts.

·         Avoid buying out-of-season fruits and vegetables.

·         Use smaller servings of meat and other more expensive items and rely more on economical foods like rice and potatoes to fill in meals.

·         Buy canned items or items you can freeze when they are on sale and store them for future use.

·         Consider using store brands – often quality and taste are the same as national brands.

·         Day-old breads and baked goods are often available at a substantial discount.

·         Avoid gimmicky, fad, or novelty foods.

Planning Your Meals

Why Plan Meals

  • To get and stay healthy - When you plan meals, make sure you include enough foods from each food group. Try to serve enough vegetables and fruits in meals. To help you balance meals. When you are serving a food with a lot of fat or salt, you can plan low fat or low-salt foods to go with it. For example, ham is high in salt. If you have ham for dinner, you also can serve a salad or a vegetable that doesn’t need salt.
  • To save money - If you plan before you go food shopping, you will know what you have on hand and what you need. Also, shopping from a list helps you avoid expensive “impulse” purchases.
  • To save time and effort - When you plan meals, you have foods on hand and make fewer trips to the grocery store. Planning also helps you make good use of leftovers. This can cut your cooking time and food costs.

Tips for planning

  • Build the main part of your meal around rice, noodles, or other grains and use smaller amounts of meat, poultry, fish, or eggs.
  • Add variety to meals.  Try new, low-cost recipes or food combinations.
  • Make meals easier to prepare by trying new ways to cook foods - use a slow cooker or crock-pot to cook stews or soups.
  • Use planned leftovers to save both time and money.  Prepare a larger amount than you will use, serve half of it, and refrigerate or freeze the remaining half to use later. You also can freeze extra cooked meats and vegetables for soups or stews.
  • Do “batch cooking” when your food budget and time allow. Cook a large batch of meatballs or turkey chili, divide it into meal-sized portions, and freeze some for later in the month.
  • Plan snacks that are healthy and nutritious. Buy fresh fruits in season like apples or peaches. Dried fruits like raisins or cranberries, raw vegetables, crackers, and whole wheat bread are also good ideas for snacks.

Tips for Shopping

  • Make a list of all the foods you need. Do this in your kitchen so you can check what you have on hand.
  • Look for specials in the newspaper for the stores where you shop or shop at stores that honor other stores coupons.
  • Look for coupons for foods you plan to buy but remember coupons save money only if you need the product. Also, check if other brands are on special. They may cost even less than the one with a coupon.
  • When your food budget allows, buy extra low-cost, nutritious foods like potatoes and frozen orange juice concentrate. These foods keep well.
  • Avoid prepared foods.  Most of these cost more than similar foods prepared at home.
  • Try store brands. They usually cost less than name brands, but they taste as good and generally have the same nutritional value.
  • Take time to compare fresh, frozen, and canned foods to see which is cheapest. Buy what’s on special and what’s in season.
  • Prevent food waste. Buy only the amount that your family will eat before the food spoils.
  • Look for the unit price to compare similar foods. It tells you the cost per ounce, pound, or pint, so you’ll know which brand or size is the best buy. Most stores show the unit price on a shelf sticker just below the product.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods. Compare the amount of fat, sodium, calories, and other nutrients in similar products. This can help you choose foods that have less fat, sodium or calories, and more vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Use the “sell by” and “best if used by” dates on packages to help you choose the freshest foods.

Tips for Healthy Cooking

  • Go easy on fat, sugar, and salt in preparing foods. For example, make baked chicken instead of fried chicken.  You don’t have to leave out all the fat, sugar, or salt—just limit the amount you use.
  • Flavor your foods with herbs, spices, and other low fat seasonings instead of using rich sauces and gravy.
  • Make homemade desserts sometimes to save money and serve additional healthy foods. For example, try a fruit crisp, Jell-O or Rice Pudding.
  • Remove skin from poultry before cooking to lower the fat content.
  • Always follow food safety rules in the kitchen to make sure that the food you prepare is safe.

Factors to Consider in Meal Preparation

·         Time - The amount of time you have to dedicate to shopping for, preparing and eating your meal will help determine what you will serve.  Nutritious meals may be prepared in a few minutes or take several hours.  Depending on your schedule or mood you may spend more or less time on this activity but preparation time should always be a consideration.

·         Cost - While cost is likely to be a major factor in food selection, there are a number of options available for nutritionally sound meals at a reasonable cost.  In fact, people who can spend a lot of money on food are not necessarily healthier than people who can spend less.  However, preparing healthy meals on a budget requires thought and deliberate planning.

·         Skill - Each person has different abilities and skill level when it comes to food preparation, depending on their background, interests, and availability of equipment.  You should plan meals that you are capable of preparing and have the necessary equipment available.  A person just starting out with only a few pots and pans and little prior experience would probably not plan a seven-course gourmet meal for 12 friends.  Nevertheless, meals can be easy as well as nutritious and appealing.

·         Appeal - The appeal of foods depends completely on individual taste.  In certain cultures, rice and fried ants is quite appealing while most people in this culture would not think so.  However, meals should be planned and served with the tastes of the guests in mind.  Try to include different colors, textures, and tastes for variety.

Setting up Your Kitchen

In order to prepare basic meals, you should have certain equipment available in your kitchen.  Almost all apartments and rental house come with the basic appliances and the other items can be purchased at a variety store (Wal-Mart, ShopKo, or Fred Meyer) for a reasonable cost or a thrift store (Goodwill) for minimal cost.  The essentials include:

Stove with oven

Refrigerator freezer


1 or 2 frying pans

1 or 2 sauce pans

Measuring cups


Can opener

Mixing bowls






Cleaning supplies



Optional Items

In addition to the basic items above, you may wish to purchase other appliances and utensils that make meal preparation easier and more efficient.


Coffee maker


Food processor



Baking pans

Pizza pan

Cutting board

Vegetable steamer

Measuring spoons

Serving bowls

Pizza cutter


Rolling pin

Cookie sheet

Coffee mugs

Dish drainer

Luxury Items

Other items can be useful but are not necessary for healthy, safe food preparation.


Garbage disposal

Electric skillet



Food Mod 3 - Worksheet

2.     At least  ______  of the 10 leading causes of death in the US are linked to the way people eat.

3.     List two diseases that are linked to improper diet. ________________________________________

4.     What are the four sources of Calories your body takes in? _________________________________


5.     What are the three processes the body uses to burn Calories?  _____________________________


6.     Only _______% of youth eat the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

7.     Benefits of healthful eating include better ___________ and _________________; better performance in ________________; prevention of childhood and adolescent problems such as ______________, ______________________ and ____________; and prevention of major chronic diseases in adulthood such as ____________, _____________, ____________ and _____________.

8.     List one advantage and one disadvantage for each of the following store types:

                                                        Advantage                                          Disadvantage

Convenience Store:           _________________________               _________________________

Specialty Store:                 _________________________               _________________________

Supermarket:                     _________________________               _________________________

9.     Three reasons to plan your meals are___________________________________________________

10.  The four factors to consider in meal preparation are Time, Cost, Skill, and Appeal – which of these is most important to you?  ___________________    Why?   ____________________________


Read the section Setting up Your Kitchen and answer questions 10 - 11.

11.   Which of the items in the ‘Essentials’ list do you need to get?  _____________________________



12.  Which of the items in the ‘Optional’ list do you feel are important for you?  ___________________