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Different foods contain different nutrients and other healthful substances. No single food can supply all the nutrients in the amounts you need. Build a healthy nutrition base by using the Food Guide Pyramid as a starting point.

It is a challenge these days to properly fuel your body, without over-doing it. With so many restaurants "super-sizing" their meals, it is tough to know...

What counts as a serving?

Grains Group (whole grain and refined): Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta

  • 1 slice of bread
  • about 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal
  • ½ cup of cooked cereal, rice or pasta

Vegetable Group

  • 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
  • ½ cup of other vegetables cooked or raw
  • ¾ cup of vegetable juice

Fruit Group

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange, pear
  • ½ cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
  • ¾ cup of fruit juice

Milk Group*: Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese

  • 1 cup of milk or yogurt
  • 1½ounces of natural cheese (such as Cheddar)
  • 2 ounces of processed cheese (such as American)

Meat and Beans Group: Meat, Poultry, Dry Beans, Eggs and Nuts

  • 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
  • ½ cup of cooked dry beans or ½ cup of tofu counts as 1 ounce of lean meat
  • 2½ ounce soyburger or 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or 1/3 cup of nuts counts as 1 ounce of meat

* This includes lactose-free and lactose-reduced milk products. One cup of soy-based beverage with added calcium is an option for those who prefer a non-dairy source of calcium.

Use of dietary supplements

Some people need a vitamin-mineral supplement to meet specific nutrient needs. For example, women who could become pregnant are advised to eat foods fortified with folic acid or to take a folic acid supplement in addition to consuming folate-rich foods to reduce the risk of some serious birth defects. Older adults and people with little exposure to sunlight may need a vitamin D supplement. People who seldom eat dairy products or other rich sources of calcium need a calcium supplement, and people who eat no animal foods need to take a vitamin B12 supplement. Sometimes vitamins or minerals are prescribed for meeting nutrient needs or for therapeutic purposes. For example, health care providers may advise pregnant women to take an iron supplement, and adults over age 50 to get their vitamin B12 from a supplement or from fortified foods.
Supplements of some nutrients, such as vitamin A and selenium, can be harmful if taken in large amounts. Because foods contain many substances that promote health, use the Food Pyramid when choosing foods. Don't depend on supplements to meet your usual nutrient needs. Dietary supplements include, not only vitamins and minerals, but also amino acids, fiber, herbal products, and many other substances that are widely available. Herbal products usually provide a very small amount of vitamins and minerals. The value of herbal products for health is currently being studied. Standards for their purity, potency, and composition are being developed.


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