A balanced diet and regular physical activity are the
building blocks of good health. Poor eating habits and too little physical
activity can lead to overweight and related health problems. By eating
right and being active, you can stay at or reach a healthy weight. Do it
for yourself and your family!
The basis of a healthy diet is eating a wide variety of foods.
Every day, you should try to eat:*
11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, or pasta. One serving equals one
slice of bread, about 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked
cereal, rice, or pasta.
5 servings of vegetables. One serving equals 1 cup of raw leafy
vegetables, or 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or raw.
4 servings of fruit. One serving equals one medium apple, banana, or
orange; 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit; or 3/4 cup of fruit
3 servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese. One serving equals 1 cup of milk
or yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese (such as Cheddar), or 2 ounces
of processed cheese (such as American). Choose low-fat or fat-free
products most often.
3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, or nuts. One serving
equals 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry without skin, or fish.
You should eat no more than 5 to 7 ounces per day. One half cup of
cooked dry beans, one egg, or 1/2 cup of tofu counts as 1 ounce of meat.
Two tablespoons of peanut butter or 1/3 cup of nuts counts as 1 ounce of
larger number of servings is for active men. Eat a smaller number of
servings if you are a woman, inactive, or trying to lose weight.
Servings and serving sizes are from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture/Department of Health and Human Services
can not always measure your food. Here are some ways to help you estimate
1/2 cup of
rice or pasta = size of ice cream scoop
1 cup of
salad greens = size of a baseball
1/2 cup of
chopped fruit or vegetables = size of a lightbulb
1 1/2 ounces
of cheese = size of four dice
3 ounces of
meat or fish = size of a deck of cards or casette tape
tablespoons peanut butter = size of a ping pong ball
Tips for healthy eating
- Drink plenty of water. Aim for about eight 8-ounce glasses
of water each day. Fruits and vegetables contain water and can
contribute to your daily water intake.
- Eat breakfast every day. People who
eat breakfast are less likely to overeat later in the day. Breakfast
also gives you energy and helps you think and learn.
- Choose whole grains more often. Try whole
wheat breads and pastas, oatmeal, brown rice, or bulgur.
- Select a mix of colorful vegetables each day. Different
colored vegetables provide different nutrients. Choose dark, leafy
greens such as kale, collards, and mustard greens, and reds and oranges
such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, and tomatoes.
- Choose fresh or canned fruit more often than fruit
juice. Fruit juice has little or no fiber.
- Use fats and oils sparingly. Olive,
canola, and peanut oils, avocados, nuts and nut butters, olives, and
fish provide heart-healthy fat as well as vitamins and minerals.
- Eat sweets sparingly. Limit foods
and beverages that are high in added sugars.
- Have low-fat, low-sugar snacks on hand at home, at
work, or on the go, to combat hunger and prevent overeating.
- Eat three meals every day instead of
skipping meals or eating a snack instead of a meal
Quick breakfast ideas
- low-fat yogurt sprinkled with low-fat granola
- oatmeal with low-fat or fat-free milk, or soy-based
- whole wheat toast with thin spread of peanut butter
- fruit smoothie made with frozen fruit, low-fat yogurt, and
- low-sugar cereal with soy-based beverage
Easy snack ideas
- low-fat or fat-free yogurt
- fresh or canned fruits
- sliced vegetables or baby carrots
- dried fruit and nut mix (no more than a small handful)
- air-popped popcorn sprinkled with garlic powder or other
- low-sugar cereal
What is a healthy weight?
Body mass index (BMI) is one way to tell whether you are at a
healthy weight, overweight, or obese. It measures your weight in relation
to your height. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is in the healthy range. In the
chart below, find your height in the left-hand column and move across the
row to find your weight. If you are in the overweight or obese range on
the chart, you are more likely to have certain health problems.
Another way to find out if you are at risk for health problems
caused by overweight and obesity is to measure your waist. If you are a
woman and your waist is more than 35 inches, or if you are a man and your
waist is more than 40 inches, your risk of disease is higher.
What are the health risks of being
Extra weight can put you at higher risk for:
2 diabetes (high blood sugar)
disease and stroke
types of cancer
apnea (when breathing stops for short periods during sleep)
osteoarthritis (wearing away of the joints)
problems with pregnancy such as high blood pressure or increased
risk for cesarean section (c-section)
What makes people overweight?
People gain weight when the number of calories they eat is more
than the number of calories their bodies use. Many factors can play a part
in weight gain.
- Habits. Eating too many calories can become a habit. So
can choosing activities like watching TV instead of being physically
active. Over time, these habits can lead to weight gain.
Genes. Overweight and obesity tend to run in families.
Although families often share diet and physical activity habits that can
play a role in obesity, their shared genes increase the chance that
family members will be overweight.
Illness. Some diseases can lead to weight gain or obesity.
These include hypothyroidism, Cushing's syndrome, and depression. Talk
to your health care provider if you think you have a health problem that
could be causing you to gain weight.
Medicine. Some medicines can lead to weight gain.
Ask your health care provider or pharmacist about the side effects of
any medication you are taking.
The world around you. You can find food and
messages about food at home, at work, at shopping centers, on TV, and at
family and social events. People may eat too much just because food is
always there. On top of that, our modern world-with remote controlled
televisions, drive-in banks, and escalators-makes it easy to be
Emotions. Many people eat when they are bored, sad, angry,
or stressed, even when they are not hungry.
Although you may not be able to control all the factors that lead
to overweight, you can change your eating and physical activity
If you need to lose weight
Losing as little as 5 to 15 percent of your body weight over 6
months or longer can do much to improve your health. For example, if you
weigh 200 pounds, losing 5 percent of your body weight means losing 10
pounds. Losing 15 percent of your body weight means losing 30 pounds. A
safe rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Try some of these ideas to support your weight loss
Shop from a list and shop when you are not hungry.
Store foods out of sight.
Use a smaller plate with smaller servings.
Eat at the table with the TV off.
At restaurants, eat only half your meal and take the rest
Take a different route if you regularly pass by a tempting fast
Expect setbacks and forgive yourself.
Seek support from family and friends.
Be realistic about weight loss goals. Aim for a slow, modest
not have to be an athlete to benefit from regular physical activity. Even
modest amounts of physical activity can improve your health. Start with
small, specific goals such as walking 10 minutes a day, 3 days a week and
slowly build up from there. Keep an activity log to track your progress.
these activities to add more movement to your daily life:
the stairs instead of the elevator. Make sure the stairs are well
off the bus one stop early if you are in an area safe for
the car farther away from entrances to stores, movie theatres, or your
a short walk around the block with family, friends, or
bad weather, walk around a mall.
museums, the zoo, or an aquarium. You and your family will walk for
hours and not realize it.
a walk after dinner instead of watching TV.
Are you ready to be even more
you become more fit, slowly increase your pace, the length of time you are
active, and how often you are active. For a well-rounded workout plan,
combine aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening exercises, and stretching.
(Check with your health care provider first if you are over 50 or have any
Do at least 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity on most
or all days of the week. Add muscle-strengthening activities to your
aerobic workout two to three times a week. To reduce the risk of injury,
do a slow aerobic warm-up, then stretch before aerobic or strengthening
activities. Follow your workout with a few more minutes of stretching. See
WIN's brochure Walking-A Step in the Right Direction for
Aerobic activity is any activity that speeds up your heart
and breathing while moving your body at a regular pace. If you have been
inactive for a while, you may want to start with easier activities such as
walking at a gentle pace. This lets you build up to more intense activity
without hurting your body.
Regular aerobic activity can help to:
Reduce weight. Aerobic activity burns calories, which
helps to reduce body fat.
Prevent heart disease and stroke. Regular aerobic
activity can strengthen your heart muscle and lower your blood pressure.
It may also help lower cholesterol, a type of fat in your blood.
Maintain strong bones. Weight-bearing aerobic activities
that involve lifting or pushing your own body weight, such as walking,
jogging, or dancing, help to maintain strong bones.
Improve your outlook. Aerobic exercise relieves tension
and decreases stress. As you get fit, it can help to build confidence
and improve your self-image.
Choose aerobic activities that are fun. People are more likely to
be active if they like what they are doing. It also helps to get support
from a friend or a family member. Try one of these activities or others
aerobic exercise classes
dancing (square dancing, salsa, African dance, swing)
playing basketball or soccer
Strengthening activities include lifting weights, using
resistance bands, and doing push-ups or sit-ups. Besides building stronger
muscles, strengthening activities may help you to:
Use more calories. Not only does the exercise burn
calories, but having more muscle means you will burn more calories-even
when you are sitting still.
Reduce injury. Stronger muscles improve balance and
support your joints, lowering the risk of injury.
- Maintain strong bones. Doing
strengthening exercises regularly helps build bone and may prevent bone
loss as you age.
Strengthening exercises should focus on working the major muscle
groups of the body, such as the chest, back, and legs. Do exercises for
each muscle group two or three times a week. Allow at least 1 day of rest
for your muscles to recover and rebuild before another strengthening
workout. (It is safe to do aerobic activity every day.)
Be good to
Many people feel stress in their daily lives. Stress can cause you
to overeat, feel tired, and not want to do anything. Regular physical
activity can give you more energy. Try some of these other ideas to help
relieve stress and stay on track with your fitness and nutrition goals:
plenty of sleep.
Practice deep breathing and relaxing your muscles one at a
a break and go for a walk.
short stretch breaks throughout the day.
taking a yoga or tai chi class to energize yourself and reduce stress.
new hobby, like a pottery class or any activity that sparks your
Surround yourself with people whose company you
A balanced eating plan, regular physical activity, and stress
relief can help you stay healthy for life.
Tips for Adults
breakfast every day. People who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat
later in the day.
Choose whole grains more often. Try whole wheat breads and
pastas, oatmeal, brown rice, or bulgur.
Select a mix of colorful vegetables each day. Different colored
vegetables provide different nutrients.
Have low-fat, low-sugar snacks on hand at home, at work, or on
the go, to combat hunger and prevent overeating.
three meals every day instead of skipping meals or eating a snack
instead of a meal.
- Drink plenty of water. Aim for about eight 8-ounce each
restaurants, eat only half your meal and take the rest home.
- Visit museums, the zoo, or an aquarium. You and your family will
walk for hours and not realize it.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000.
Exercise and Weight Control
Council on Physical Fitness
Healthy Weight, Healthy Living
Walking...A Step in the Right
Weight-control Information Network (WIN),
American Dietetic Association
216 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60606-6995
Phone: 1-800-366-1655 or (312)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Diabetes Education Program
President's Council on Physical Fitness and
200 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20201-0004
Phone: (202) 690-9000
Shape Up America!
Food and Nutrition Information Center
Agricultural Research Service
Library, Room 105
10301 Baltimore Avenue
Phone: (301) 504-5719
Inclusion of resources is for information only and does not
imply endorsement by NIDDK or WIN.
Weight-control Information Network
1 WIN WAY
BETHESDA, MD 20892-3665
FAX: (202) 828-1028
The Weight-control Information Network (WIN) is a national service of
the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of
the National Institutes of Health, which is the Federal Government’s lead
agency responsible for biomedical research on nutrition and obesity.
Authorized by Congress (Public Law 103-43), WIN provides the general
public, health professionals, the media, and Congress with up-to-date,
science-based health information on weight control, obesity, physical
activity, and related nutritional issues.
WIN answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works
closely with professional and patient organizations and Government
agencies to coordinate resources about weight control and related
Publications produced by WIN are carefully reviewed by both NIDDK
scientists and outside experts. This publication was also reviewed by
Roland Weinsier, M.D., Dr.P.H., Professor and Director, Clinical Nutrition
Research Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Rena Wing, Ph.D.,
Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University; and F.
Xavier Pi-Sunyer, M.D., M.P.H., Director, Obesity Research Center, St.
Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center.
This e-text is not copyrighted. The clearinghouse encourages users of
this e-pub to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
National Institutes of
NIH Publication No. 02-4992