A balanced diet is achieved by selecting a wide variety of healthy foods each day. The U.S. government has established dietary guidelines represented by a food pyramid that consists of the following categories.
Fruits and Vegetables
Together, fruits and vegetables should comprise the highest percentage of the foods you eat. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is essential for providing the fiber, vitamins and antioxidants the body needs.
Grains are the second-most-important food group, providing carbohydrates that are converted to energy. Breads, cereals, rice and pasta are in this group. Whole grains are preferable to white, processed and refined grains.
The best sources of milk are those that retain a high calcium content. Choose low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese. Avoid butter and cream.
Meats and Beans
Meats and beans provide protein. Choose lean meats and poultry or fish. Seeds, nuts, peas and eggs are also in this category.
Oils, which are a source of fat, should comprise the smallest percentage of the diet. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are best; avoid saturated and trans fats. Good sources of oil are fish, nuts and vegetable oils.