There is no single healthy diet that fits everyone. Which foods you eat on a healthy diet depends on your individual needs. Age, sex, hereditary factors, environmental factors and health and lifestyle considerations can help you decide what foods are healthful for you. The research about the healthiest foods is constantly in flux. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reviews and updates its recommendations every five years for adults on a standard, 2,000 calorie diet. Yet within all the variation, there are constants. The following foods consistently appear in lists of foods recommended for a healthy diet. Add them to your diet in the quantities that are best for you, as befits your personal needs.
Fruits or fruit juices rich in vitamins are healthy foods belonging on a standard, 2,000 calorie diet. Have two to four servings of fruit per day, varying the fruit to get an assortment of nutrients. A single serving of fruit might be a medium banana, 1/2 cup of chopped melon or 3/4 cup of 100 percent fruit juice.
Eat an assortment of vegetables in a rainbow of colors to get your vitamin C, calcium, iron, beta carotene, potassium and other vitamins and minerals–from the red and orange vegetables like sweet potato, red bell pepper and red beet to the green vegetables like okra, green beans, romaine lettuce and mustard greens. Have three to five servings of vegetables a day. One serving of vegetables might be a cup of lettuce, 1/2 cup of broccoli or 3/4 cup of carrot juice.
Meat and Beans
Meat provides protein, iron, vitamin B12 and other nutrients. Consume two to three servings of foods in the meat and beans food group, including beef, pork, chicken, turkey, duck, fish, legumes (dry beans, peanuts and peas), eggs, tree nuts and seeds. Choose low-fat, fat-free or lean cuts of meat. Variety is also important in this group, and eating seeds or fish is recommended to provide omega-3 fatty acids. A serving in the meat and beans category is 2 to 3 ounces of meat, 1 egg, 2 tbsp. peanut butter, 1/2 cup of cooked beans or 1/3 cup of nuts.
Note: if you are on a vegan diet, check with your doctor to see if you need to take vitamin B12 supplements, since animal-based foods are the only source of vitamin B12.
With their fiber content, protein and other nutrients, whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet. Eat six to eight servings of grains per day, ideally at least half being whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat, wild rice and oats. A serving of grains may be a slice of bread, an ounce of breakfast cereal or 1/2 cup of pasta.
Calcium and protein abound in milk, yogurt and cheese. On a standard 2,000 calorie diet, eat two to three daily servings from the milk group consisting of 1 cup of yogurt, 1 cup of milk or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese. If you are lactose intolerant, consider taking calcium and vitamin D supplements or supplementing your dairy foods with lactase enzyme. Consult your doctor about what is best for you.
Eat healthy oils in small quantities. Choose oils rich in polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fatty acids such as those found in fish, nuts and vegetable oils. Extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil and pumpkin seed oil are healthy additions to most diets.