What is a healthy diet?
Eating a healthy diet means giving your body the type and amount of foods and drinks that help you look and feel your best. When you give your body what it needs (like vitamins, minerals, protein), it uses that great stuff to give you lots in return, like energy, powerful muscles, and strong bones.
What foods give my body what it needs for energy, muscles, and all that?
It takes a variety of different foods. A healthy diet is made up mostly of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy foods. It also should include smaller amounts of lean meats, fish, and poultry (like chicken or turkey), plus beans. Everybody needs plenty of water every day, too. It’s just plain refreshing, plus your body needs water for everything from digesting food to circulating blood.
So, if I want to eat a healthy diet, are there foods I have to skip completely?
Nope. Healthy eating is like a puzzle. There can be a place for everything.
Let’s go back to the big picture. It’s true, most of what you eat should be the foods that deliver what you need to look and feel your best. But if you’re thinking that you haven’t seen any mention of soda, corn chips, chocolate cake, or pepperoni pizza yet, don’t worry! These foods can fit into the puzzle. The goal is to watch out for four key things:
Some foods (like sodas, potato chips, chocolate cake, and pepperoni pizza) can pack a lot of calories, fat, sugar, and/or salt. Getting too much of these 4 key things can just plain slow you down. And eating too much fat can also start clogging up your arteries (blood vessels) with waxy goo (EWWW!). So, while everyone enjoys a treat now and then, just make sure they don’t start crowding out all the other things you need to eat to feel and look your best.
What about how MUCH food to eat?
Here’s a list of the different kinds of foods people need that also gives you an idea of about how much you should have each day. Kids who aren’t very active need to eat less food than kids who are very active.
9 to 13 year olds
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Grains (like whole grain bread, brown rice, popcorn)
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Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or beans
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Low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese
fats or oils (like olive oil in salad dressing, oils in nuts)
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If “cups, ounces, and teaspoons” make your head spin, don’t worry. Try our decoder to get an idea of how to “count” the many different foods you eat.
Nutrition labels talk about how many cups etc. make one “serving” of that food. The labels show things like the fat, calories, and nutrition from vitamins that food gives you if you eat one serving of it.
Some things that may look like one serving are really much more. Next time you grab an individual-size package of chips, cookies, or crackers, check the label-lots of these small size packages actually count as 2 or 3 servings, even though it would be easy to eat it all at once. One more good reason to be a label reader!
Nutrition, Fruits and Vegetables, Calories, Fat… all over magazines, on the news, in school… Why is all of this such a big deal?
We need nutrition from foods and drinks to fuel our bodies. The kinds and amounts of food we give our bodies can directly affect how we look and feel. With the best (most nutritious) fuel, we’re ready and able to do all the stuff we have to do, and all the fun stuff we love to do.
And, you’re right-the world makes it a little complicated. As many regular people struggle with weight, the media shows super skinny women and buff guys, and hints that being thin or really muscular makes people happy and popular. And then you see a fast food ad right after that! Add to all this the fact that eating is sometimes about more than just fueling our bodies-like when families cook up a huge meal to celebrate, or when some folks eat because they feel sad, or others think grabbing fries instead of carrots is just plain more convenient for them.
WHEW! Ready for some sanity? A healthy eating style is about fueling your body in a healthy way-so you can be your personal best. Check here to get started.