How to Eat Healthy: The Dietary Guidelines

The dietary guidelines are health suggestions that can be used with the food groups and looking at the food labels. They are designed to help you improve your diet and lifestyle.

Get the most value from your calories.

The average adult consumes about 2,000 calories a day. Make the most of these calories. Choose foods that are rich in nutrients and choose from all the food groups every day. Just don’t eat more than your body needs.

Balance your calorie intake with frequent exercise.

Being active helps you stay healthy and fit. Balance the calories you eat with the amount you burn through frequent exercise. This will help you manage your weight. Adults should exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week. See the tips below for some ideas on how to manage your calorie intake.

Calorie-Burning Activities:

Calories by Activity

Decreasing Calorie Intake

    • Check the Nutrition Facts label before buying foods.
    • Eat smaller portions and limit second helpings.
    • Eat less fat and fewer high-fat foods. Foods like butter, whole milk, bacon, and pastries all have high fat content.
    • Eat less sugar and fewer sweets. Candy, dessert pies, and soda all have added sugars.
    • Drink less or no alcohol.
    • Beware of fad diets.

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Choose a diet with a healthy variety of foods.

Most of the foods you eat should come from a variety of sources. Fruits, vegetables, whole-grain products, and fat-free or low-fat milk products are good choices. These foods are rich in nutrients and generally low in fat. They may also help reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases.

Choose a diet low in fats.

Fats should make up only 20-35% of a healthy diet. Foods with high levels of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are linked to high blood cholesterol. They may also increase your risk of heart disease. Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your total fat intake. Avoid trans fats when possible.

Choose a diet moderate in sugars.

Sugars are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Consuming too much sugar can also lead to tooth decay. Eat fewer sweet snacks and desserts. Go easy on table sugar and sweeteners.

Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium and rich in potassium.

Salt contains the mineral sodium. A high-sodium diet increases the risk of high blood pressure in some adults. A potassium-rich diet may decrease this risk. Limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams a day. This is about 1 teaspoon of salt. At the same time, consume about 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day. This is a little more than 2 teaspoons.

Reducing Salt & Sodium

  • Eat less processed food such as canned foods, frozen dinners, and processed lunch meats.
  • Replace salt with other herb and spices when preparing meals.
  • Leave the saltshaker off the table when eating.

Increase Potassium

  • Eat foods rich in potassium. This includes most fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and certain fish and nuts.
  • Don’t take potassium supplements without a doctor’s permission.


If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.

Alcoholic drinks add little value to a healthy diet. They’re high in calories and contain few nutrients. Drinking alcohol is also the cause of some health problems and many accidents. It can even lead to addiction.

Men who choose to drink should have no more than two drinks a day. Women who choose to drink should have no more than one drink a day.

What’s One Drink?

  • 12 oz. if regular beer (150 calories)
  • 5 oz. of wine (100 calories)
  • 5 oz. of 80-proof distilled spirits (100 calories)

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