Essential Components of a Healthy Diet

Essential Components of a Healthy DietWith so much conflicting advice in the media, it can be difficult to determine the best way to eat healthily and stay in shape. For example, while some sources of information say that eliminating sugar and fat completely is the best way to stay fit, others suggest that the total amount of calories consumed is all that matters. To help clear up the confusion, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services collaborated to create dietary guidelines for all people in the United States.

Tips for Proper Nutrition

Based on the most recent edition of the HHS and USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, all people should:

  • Limit the amount of refined grains, added sugars, cholesterol, trans fats, saturated fats, and sodium in their diet.
  • Consume more seafood, low-fat dairy, fat-free products, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
    Eat the appropriate amount of calories and engage in regular physical activity.

The Food Pyramid

According to the USDA, Americans need to eat a variety of foods in specific amounts in order to optimize their health. These foods include fruits and vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy products.

Fruits and Vegetables

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of heart attack, stroke, and certain types of cancers. The USDA suggests filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables during every meal.


Eating whole grains helps with weight management, reduces constipation, and may reduce the risk of heart disease. The USDA recommends making at least half of your grains whole grains.


Protein is important for good health, but it should be consumed in limited quantities. The USDA recommends consuming between 2 and 6 ounces of protein each day, depending on your age and gender. It’s also important to vary the types of meat you consume.


Consuming dairy products reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. However, many dairy products are high in fat, which can cause weight gain and other problems. For maximum benefit, the USDA recommends switching to low-fat dairy products whenever possible.

In addition to eating the proper amount of food from each of these categories on a daily basis, the dietary guidelines also recommend eating as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible in order to minimize exposure to additives.