We won't prescribe systems everyone can or should follow; this would undermine the concept of self-trust. However, some consideration of the components of basic nutrition is needed to develop an intelligent, broad-based awareness of the role that food plays in your wellbeing. Moreover, in the midst of the confusing data surrounding this subject, some common recommendations continually surface from almost every source consulted. While it would be foolish to latch onto this or any other plan as the final word, we do believe that the overall guidelines offered by the 2000 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and supplemented by the Harvard Medical School guidelines represent a balanced approach. To view and download a copy of Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Fifth edition, 2000), visit www.usda.gov/cnpp/Pubs/DG2000. Single copies of the guidelines can also be purchased from the Federal Consumer Information Center, (888) 878-3256.
For the Harvard recommendations, see www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/pyramids.html or Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy.
In brief, combining these guidelines, we suggest the following:
- Let the pyramids guide your food choices. [image of food pyramids] Primarily, let plant foods serve as the foundation of your diet.
Keep food safe to eat by avoiding contamination or improper storage.Aim for a healthy weight.
- Choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains. Keep white rice, pasta, starches, and sweets to a minimum.
- Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.
Be physically active each day.Choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat. Use plant oils (like olive, canola, sunflower, etc.) regularly.Choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars.Choose and prepare foods with less salt.If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.Use a multivitamin and multi-mineral supplement, or a type of plant-based superfood, daily.
- Evaluate your body weight.
- Find out your risk factors for disease.
- Choose sensible portion sizes.
- If you need to lose weight, do so gradually.
- Encourage healthy weight in children.
As with all general recommendations, don't expect to make massive changes overnight. Focus on one or two small changes at a time. Take three or four weeks to allow your new habits to become firmly established, even natural to you. Keep them going while you then choose another recommendation to work on. Take your time. These are the habits of a lifetime that you are addressing. Be gentle but consistent.