Number of Servings
Like the serving size, the number of servings varies from person to person. Adults need more than children, and active people need more than sedentary folks. The chart at the bottom of the page gives a quick look at the range from five-year-old kids to adults. Nutrition requirements are different for infants and toddlers.
Grain and Cereal Servings
Aim for six to eight ounces of whole grains and cereals every day. An ounce of whole grains can be found in one slice of bread, one cup of cereal, or one-half cup of pasta or cooked grain such as rice or oats. Choose whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain breads, brown rice, and straight whole grains like barley or quinoa.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an ancient grain from the Andes of South America. Together with corn and potatoes, it was a staple food of the Incas. Quinoa is one of the few plant foods that contain complete protein.
Eat at least six servings of vegetables every day. Choose vegetables that are dark green and leafy, bright orange, red, and purple. Eat a variety of vegetables throughout the week, so your overall nutrient intake is broad.
A serving includes one cup of leafy greens, one-half cup of chopped raw or cooked vegetables, or three-quarters of a cup of juice.
Limit fruit to two to three servings a day. While three-quarters of a cup of fruit juice counts as a serving, it is much healthier to eat a whole piece of fruit, which provides vital fiber. Eat the peels and skin of the fruit when possible, because much of the nutrients concentrate at the outer layer of the fruit.
Dried fruits have concentrated nutrients, but also higher sugar levels, so beware. One serving of fruit is equivalent to one piece of fruit the size of a tennis ball, a quarter melon, a half grapefruit, or a quarter cup of dried fruit.
Keep daily dairy intake to two to three cups each day. Pick dairy with the lowest fat content. Milk, cheese, and plain yogurt are the best choices. Other dairy products, like flavored yogurts, chocolate milk, and ice cream, contain calcium, but also excessive fat and sugar. A serving is equivalent to one cup of milk or yogurt, a half cup of cottage cheese, or one and a half ounces of cheese.
Partially hydrogenated fat is artificially thickened vegetable oil. It contains trans fat, which is believed to not only increase bad cholesterol, but decrease good cholesterol. Trans fat is found in many foods, including margarine, salad dressings, cookies, and breads.
Try to consume no more than four servings of lean protein every day. A serving of protein is found, approximately, in a half cup of cooked beans, one egg, two tablespoons of peanut butter, or a small chicken breast or hamburger at two and a half to three ounces. Beans and nuts are the healthiest choices.
If you’re a meat lover, look for lean meats, with skin and fat removed. Look for organic peanut butter with no added sugar.
Fat and oil should be limited to no more than a half cup a day. Choose unsaturated oils, such as olive and peanut oils. Stay away from margarine and other partially hydrogenated oils.
Stay away from refined sugar as much as possible. Eat fresh and dried fruits for your sweet fix. Sweeten baked goods with honey, date sugar, or stevi a—a sweetener extracted from an herb (called stevia, sweetleaf, or sugarleaf) that is 300 times sweeter than granulated sugar.
You’ve been told all your life: Drink lots of water! Dehydration causes fatigue, lack of concentration, mood swings, dry mouth, lightheadedness, and eventually loss of consciousness, so keeping well hydrated is a good idea.
The best advice is to drink water with meals, and occasionally throughout the day, to maintain good fluid balance and to stay mentally alert. Beverages with sugar; caffeine; or artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives do not rehydrate you, and will generally dehydrate you.