Consumer surveys done over the last ten years have found more and more people feel there is too much controversy over how to eat healthy, so they have stopped trying. Are you one of them? I can understand your frustration because I read all of the food and nutrition news that is released every day to stay abreast of the issues, and I find it overwhelming. Yet no matter what I read, it rarely affects what I eat. That's because the basic requirements for a healthy and balanced diet have not changed significantly in over 30 years.
It was 1980 when the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released. My diet has pretty much conformed to them ever since. The recipes I use have changed, but not the food. The 7 Guidelines at that time were:
- Eat a variety of foods
- Maintain ideal weight
- Avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
- Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber
- Avoid too much sugar
- Avoid too much sodium
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
Every five years since then the Dietary Guidelines have been updated, but they have not dramatically revised what Americans should eat, just how much. Unfortunately, those revisions have fueled endless debates over the details which have kept most Americans from getting started on the basics.
If you're confused about how to eat healthy, maybe it's time to get back to basics.
Basic Requirement of a Healthy Diet
The most important guideline in the bunch is the first one: Eat a variety of foods. It seems so simple, yet few people actually do it. Variety in the diet means you eat foods from each of the food groups every day:
- Protein Foods
Variety also means you make different choices within each food group from day-to-day and week-to-week throughout the year. That is always possible when you realize you can choose fresh produce some days and frozen or canned on others. Or you can include eggs, fish, beans, nuts, beef, chicken or pork in your meal for a good source of protein. Eating a variety of grains means you add barley to a pot of soup instead of rice sometimes, take the tabbouleh from the salad bar instead of pasta salad, or use a whole wheat bun on your burger instead of a white one.
How to Handle the Headlines
No matter what crazy claim is being made in the headlines, you have little to worry about if you are eating a wide variety of all the basic foods you need in the right amounts. That alone will provide you with a built-in safety valve against over consumption of any food that could be harmful if eaten in excess. It also delivers a huge dose of natural protection from whatever risks might lurk in the environment.
So before you lose any sleep over whether organically grown fruits and vegetables are better than conventionally grown, be sure you're eating the recommended 5-11 servings each day.