Principles of Healthy Eating
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are made up of ten basic principles for healthy eating. The guidelines are meant to provide sound advice to help people make food choices for a healthy, active life. Following the guidelines will ensure that your eating habits measure up. Therefore, understanding the dietary guidelines should be your first step to making sure you are consuming a diet that is optimal to a healthy pregnancy.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
The dietary guidelines follow an easy-to-remember “ABC” organization. Each of the three main topics (Aim for Fitness, Build a Healthy Base, and Choose Sensibly) includes several important points. (To read the full guidelines, see Appendix A.)
The first topic, Aim for Fitness, points out the important of good physical health:
Aim for a healthy weight.
Be physically active each day.
The second topic, Build a Healthy Base, gives basic pointers on healthy eating:
Let the pyramid guide your food choices.
Choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains.
Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.
Keep food safe to eat.
The third topic, Choose Sensibly, provides advice on eating for general health:
Choose a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and moderate in total fat.
Choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars.
Choose and prepare foods with less salt.
If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The guidelines are updated every five years. To be on the cutting edge of good health, look for updated versions as they become available.
Changing Your Eating Habits
Let's say that after a review of the Food Guide Pyramid and the USDA's dietary guidelines, you have determined that your nutritional intake in not up to par. Don't worry — there is time to make some changes. The key is to make only a few changes at a time. Trying to change your entire diet at one time can be frustrating and discouraging. Start with simple goals — such as eating at least three meals a day, eating two servings of fruit per day, drinking eight glasses of water each day, or walking thirty minutes three times per week — and work your way up from there. Once you have mastered one set of habits, move on to the next. Be sure your goals are realistic, specific, and attainable. “Eat more fruit” is a noble goal, but it might help to make one that's more specific, like goal is “Eat two servings of fruit each day.”
To aid in your endeavors, find a way to monitor yourself, such as a food journal. Self-monitoring has been shown to help change a behavior in the desired direction. Keep in mind that it takes at least twenty-one days to actually change a habit — be patient. Use your food journal to write down everything you eat and drink throughout the day; this can help you stay committed to your goals of eating a healthier diet. Write each item down as soon as you have eaten it. That way you won't conveniently forget to take note of certain foods at the end of the day. Keep track of your exercise habits and how much water you drink, too.