Becoming a healthier you isn't just about eating healthy—it's also about physical activity.
Find your balance between food and
Regular physical activity is important for your overall health and fitness. It also helps you
control body weight by balancing the calories you take in as food with the calories you
expend each day.
• Adults need to be physically active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
• Increasing the intensity or the amount of time that you are physically active can
have even greater health benefits and may be needed to control body weight.
About 60 minutes a day may be needed to prevent weight gain.
• Children and teenagers should be physically active for 60 minutes every day,
or most every day.
If you eat 100 more food calories a day than you burn, you'll gain about 1 pound
in a month. That's about 10 pounds in a year. The bottom line is that to lose weight,
it's important to reduce calories and increase physical activity.
Get the most nutrition out of your calories. There is a right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends
on your age, activity level, and whether you're trying to gain, maintain, or lose weight.*
You could use up the entire amount on a few high-calorie items, but chances are you
won't get the full range of vitamins and nutrients your body needs to be healthy.
Choose the most nutritionally rich foods you can from each food group each day—
those packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients but lower in calories.
Pick foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk
products more often.
* 2,000 calories is the value used as a general reference on the food label.
But you can calculate your number at www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines.
NUTRITION: To know the facts…Most packaged foods have a Nutrition Facts label. For a healthier you, use this tool
to make smart food choices quickly and easily. Try these tips:
• Keep these low: saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium.
• Get enough of these: potassium, fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron.
• Use the % Daily Value (DV) column when possible: 5% DV or less is low,
20% DV or more is high.
Check servings and calories. Look at the serving size and how many servings you
are actually consuming. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories
and nutrients, including the % DVs.
Make your calories count. Look at the calories on the label and compare them with
what nutrients you are also getting to decide whether the food is worth eating. When one
serving of a single food item has over 400 calories per serving, it is high in calories.
Don't sugarcoat it. Since sugars contribute calories with few, if any, nutrients, look for foods
and beverages low in added sugars. Read the ingredient list and make sure that added
sugars are not one of the first few ingredients. Some names for added sugars (caloric
sweeteners) include sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple
syrup, and fructose.
Know your fats. Look for foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol to help
reduce the risk of heart disease (5% DV or less is low, 20% DV or more is high). Most of
the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Keep total fat intake
between 20% to 35% of calories.
Reduce sodium (salt), increase potassium. Research shows that eating less than
2,300 milligrams of sodium (about 1 tsp of salt) per day may reduce the risk of high
blood pressure. Most of the sodium people eat comes from processed foods, not from
the saltshaker. Also look for foods high in potassium, which counteracts some of
sodium's effects on blood pressure.
These are the basic guidelines for eating a healthy diet and being physically active.
For more information about the food groups and nutrition values, or to pick up some
new ideas on physical activity, go to www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines.