Tips for following dietary guidelines and planning healthy meals

Nearly 40 percent of all Americans are considered obese.

Planning balanced meals can help provide adequate nutrients for health maintenance and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Optimizing nutrition can also help with weight control, energy levels, and overall quality of life. Focus on an eating plan that is individualized to your lifestyle and nutritional needs.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are a joint effort by the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services to provide recommendations regarding food choices and physical activity. The Dietary Guidelines are updated every 5 years; the most recent report of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans concentrates on an overall healthy eating pattern.

RESOURCE: Learn more about dietary guidelines

Basic dietary guidelines:

• Focus on consuming a mix of foods and beverages across all food groups: vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, dairy, lean proteins, and oils.

• Aim for at least half of grains consumed to be whole grains.

• Consume a variation of protein sources including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, soy, nuts, and seeds.

• Try to consume oils from plants such as olive and peanut, in addition to oils naturally present in foods, such as olives, avocado, nuts, seeds, and seafood.

• Limit saturated and trans fats.

• Limit calories from added sugars, such as avoiding sodas, fruit drinks, and energy drinks.

• Also, within each group, choose a variety of foods to help provide a range of nutrients. For example, each week eat several types of vegetables, including dark greens, red and orange, legumes, starchy, and other vegetables such as cruciferous vegetables.

To help focus on consuming a variety of plant-based foods, enjoy gardening in your home and backyard. For an appealing look and nutritional boost, plant a garden filled with herbs, flowers, and produce.

• Gardening can help improve your emotional wellbeing and provide decorations for your home.

• Plants can reduce air pollution.

• Add flowers to your home to show appreciation to others or help reduce stress; flowers can deter pests from your produce in your garden.

• Consider sustainable gardening methods and reducing chemical exposure.

• Check your local area for involvement in community gardens.

• If you are unable to create your own garden or seek additional crops, enjoy stopping at farmers markets to fill up on colorful, fresh, local produce.

Use the spring to clean your mind, body, and soul. Focus on small changes and utilizing local resources to enhance your overall eating pattern. Enjoy nature and find ways to engage in physical activity outdoors.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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