Balancing intake and output

Perhaps the most important characteristic of a healthy diet is balance - a balance of food types and a balance of intake and output. To maintain a stable weight, one must burn off as much as one has taken in. Therefore, a healthy diet is always connected closely with healthy levels of activity (see Chapter 2 for details on exercise).

Two models that are useful regarding the proper balance of food types are the Food Pyramid and the New American Plate.

The Food Pyramid, developed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), illustrates the healthy diet as based on a foundation of plant-based foods, including whole-grain complex carbohydrates and substantial amounts of vegetables and fruits. Meat and dairy products make up a smaller proportion, with fats and sweets being used only sparingly.

The New American Plate, developed by the American Institute for Cancer Research, simplifies this further. This model indicates that two-thirds or more of a dinner plate should consist of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans;

one-third or less should be animal protein. Most Americans eat more meat than their bodies can use. A 60-90-g portion (the size of a deck of cards) twice a day is more than adequate protein consumption when eaten with a balanced diet that includes grains, vegetables, and milk.

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