Our daily food guide goes beyond all other information on the Web. Federal governments issue food guides in an attempt to provide its citizens the framework of a healthy diet. Oftentimes a visual image, such as a plate or pyramid, is used to define general food groups to focus on along with an estimated range of daily serving for each group.
The main problem... They are tailored toward the entire population, which is diverse and unique in its tastes, preferences, and dietary habits. It is not specific enough for you!
USDA's Choose My Plate
Our governments create food guides and make dietary recommendations based on preventing epidemics of diseases, but not necessarily in the best interest of your optimal health.
Fortunately, our daily food guide was created without lobbying and vagueness. We want to redefine food groups, so you have a clear idea about which provide the most exceptional nutritional value, while giving you the flexibility to eat from all the food groups you enjoy, regardless of personal dietary preferences.
Our healthy diet plan isn't about avoiding nutrients. It doesn't restrict entire groups of foods or tell you when you must and must not eat. It is a logical approach to eating for your body's optimal health based on facts from independent research in nutrition science and the ABCDE components of a healthy diet.
Our Daily Food Guide uses three colors which almost all people associate with a traffic light, but here will help us demonstrate just how often we need to include each group in our healthy diet plan.
Food Groups should be eaten daily.
Food Groups can be eaten most days.
Food Groups can be eaten a couple days a week.
The main idea behind the daily food guide is not to restrict foods! Rather, it is to help you focus on which foods to eat the most of, which should be moderately consumed, and which should have a more limited role in your healthy diet.
Vegetables are the most nutritionally dense of all food groups. Overall, they are rich in the A, B, and C Vitamins as well as minerals including Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Their bright colors (think reds, greens, and oranges) are a result of phytochemicals which are believed to have numerous beneficial health effects.
Most vegetables have a high water content, are low in fat, possess strong antioxidant abilities, and are a rich source of fiber. With the exception of starchy vegetables, vegetables offer maximum efficiency for nutrients because their of low calorie characteristic paired with their richness in micronutrients.
Choosing vegetables at the market can be an enjoyable experiment and fun experience. There are many varieties and produce is relatively cheap.
One major concern the risk of pesticide exposure as a result of mono-agriculture. The Environmental Working Group publishes an annual report of the most contaminated foods.
According to the EWG, replacing the "Dirty Dozen" foods with an organic alternative will reduce your pesticide exposure rate by about 90%. Click here to view a printable version of the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" courtesy of EWG.
Fruits are antioxidant powerhouses. Overall, they are the strongest source of antioxidants among the daily food guide.
While fruits often appeal to our craving for sweet, they also provide some of the most significant sources of essential minerals. With the exception of Vitamin D, they can contain amounts of all vitamins. Similar to vegetables, fruits are low in fat, low in calories per gram, and get us well on our way to an ideal fiber intake for the day.
The next three food groups in the daily food guide make up the larger class of foods known as edible seeds. That's right! From a biological perspective, what we consider nuts/seeds, legumes, and whole grains are all edible seeds.
Edible seeds share a couple common properties. First. they contain protein as a percentage of calories that provides enough for our body to function properly. As we will learn, some sources provide a higher quality of protein than others in these food groups. However, all foods considered edible seeds have an appreciable amount of fiber, a nutrient that is extremely deficient in the modern diet.
Nuts and Seeds are among the best way for us to intake our daily essential Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats. Virtually every nut and seed is super-packed with vitamin E, which acts primarily as an antioxidant in the prevention of degenerative diseases and aging. In addition, many nuts and seeds also contain other antioxidant nutrients such as zinc and selenium.
Trail mixes are a great method to include nuts and seeds in your healthy diet plan. Roasted nuts and seeds can add a smokey flavor without compromising nutritional value significantly, but avoid those that are salted or chocolate covered .
One cautionary rule to follow: Enjoy Nuts and Seeds One Handful at a Time!
Legumes are dominated primarily by beans, peas, and lentils in the daily food guide. They have received a bad reputation in the past, but fortunately that is starting to change as people begin to recognize their extreme nutritional value.
In addition to being perhaps the best single source of fiber, they are a food group that are low in fat and diverse in their source of minerals, especially iron and folate. Legumes contain nearly every vitamin B participant and, like the previously-mentioned good groups, are rich in antioxidants.
Legumes are an important of part of the daily food guide and can be incorporated in soups, salads, stews, and side dishes. All three types of legumes can be found prepared and packaged in cans.
However, processing can potentially remove nutrients and adds a significant amount of sodium to help preserve the product and increase shelf life. Excess sodium remains a cornerstone characteristic of the modern diet and is a key risk factor and culprit in the development of high-blood pressure.
Peas can be found as fresh produce, while beans and lentils are dried. Steaming and boiling are the traditional methods of cooking legumes, and caution must be taken when dealing with beans. Many beans, most notably kidney beans, contain toxins which must be cooked completely to be eaten without risk of exposure. Isn't it ironic that kidney beans also are on the most nutritionally-dense of the legume food group.
Remember... Add Fresh, Frozen, or Cooked Legumes to Anything!
Grains have taken on the opposite reputation of legumes. The USDA, along with many other federal governments, recommend a large portion of your diet come from grains. It is estimated that grains provide 56% of the calories consumed and 50% of the protein on the earth. This is not ideal, nor recommended in the daily food guide.
Common Whole Grains
How many of these whole grains have you enjoyed before? Now, would that number increase if we added these products to the list?
Most of us know we should eat whole grains, which are minimally processed grains that contains all three original components (the bran, germ, and endosperm).
What most of us don't realize that we should eat only whole grains and, more importantly, be picky about the ones we choose to eat.
Overall, whole grains have an incredible balance of macronutrients - carbs, fats, proteins, - in proportions that are well-suited for your healthy diet.
This is where an important distinction needs to be made in the daily food guide. Products of whole grains and whole grains are different, and need to be treated as such. Are whole grain derived pastas, breads, and cereals bad for you? Not necessarily, but treating them as a your only source for whole grains is a mistake.
There are two reasons to do so.
First, the gluten epidemic. Wheat, whether it be refined or whole, contains a relatively astronomical amount of gluten. Whether or not you have a gluten intolerance isn't necessarily the point. In choosing whole grains, it is important we seek diversity in our choices.
The second reason is that whole grains tend to be bland in taste, often serving simply as a vehicle to deliver additional calories. A prime example would be a sandwich on two slices of whole wheat bread. In choosing to incorporate whole grains, make them a key part of the meal. Imagine a big bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with fresh fruit.
The important take-away point here: Be Selective and Diverse with Whole Grains, and Only Whole Grains!
Now, Herbs and Spices. Not a food group, right? Wrong!
Herbs and spices can, and should, be used whenever, wherever on whatever. This is the standpoint of the daily food guide and a belief you should adopt in creating your healthy diet plan.
They are virtually calorie-less and have a vast array, although in small amounts, of vitamins and minerals. Just as the case with vegetables, herbs and spices are filled with phytochemicals that have a constantly-growing list of benefits to our health.
Their culinary uses are to provide a wide variety of unique flavors and tastes to food, but are often one of the most neglected items in the kitchen. Fortunately, part of your healthy diet plan will be to incorporate them as often as possible, learning each of their many tastes, which will ultimately lead to cutting down on the use of saturated fats and sodium in cooking.
One of the added benefits of spices and herbs are the many perceived remedies to human health. Herbs and spices have a storied tradition in homeopathic medicine. We won't overindulge here, but there are many uses for ailments ranging from digestive issues to pain relief. In addition to treating disease, there are many mysterious effects each have on the body.
Herbs are fresh, Spices are dried... Use Them Frequently to Keep Butter and Salt Aside.
The Seafood category in the daily food guide includes traditional finned fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. It is hands down, the best animal-based source of food on the planet. Seafood shines as a protein. Not only does it contain a high percentage of its calories as the nutrient, but the large amount of protein is both complete and high-quality. This allows for easy digestibility and absorption into the bodily tissues.
Seafood, in particular fish, are also the most predominant source of EPA and DHA. These members of the Omega-3 essential fatty acid family have numerous health benefits and are best obtained from dark-fleshed fish. Seafood is a strong source of antioxidants including Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Zinc, and Selenium.
One concern to be addressed in the daily food guide is to be aware of the possible presence of mercury in fish. Knowing the sources of seafood and avoiding large fish that tend to accumulate mercury from prey will mitigate the risks, and allow you to enjoy the unique benefits of seafood.
Oils are typically used as a cooking medium or as a dressing for foods. They have the ability to impart unique flavor on food, change the texture, and transform an ordinary dish into something exceptional. As the group of lipids that are liquid at room temperature, they are extracted primarily from plant based foods including certain fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Palm, soybean, and canola (rapeseed) oils currently account for approximately 75% of all plant-based oil consumed in the world. Popularity varies among geographic region, but in the North American market the most common oils used at home are canola, corn, and olive oils.
Oils are best classified by their degree of saturation - saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated - because of their relevance to their use in the cooking process. When purchasing oils, the two most important things to be aware of are the method of extraction and degree of refinement.
Method of extraction refers to how the oil is created from the food source. Mechanical extraction uses a process known as "pressing", which crushes the food source to produce oil. Heat can be incorporated into this process, often in an effort to increase the yield.
Chemical extraction uses a solvent which absorbs the oils from the ground plant source. The solvent, which can be petroleum-based, is then evaporated at a very high temperature. Despite the involvement of potential toxins, this method is preferred among producers because it is less expensive and produces a higher yield. After extraction, oils can either be refined or bottled as unrefined.
Daily food guide advice when choosing oils... Cold-pressed, Unrefined Varieties are the Best Nutritional Value!
Poultry, Wild Game, and Eggs is a food group unique to the daily food guide. Not only does it include chicken and turkey, but also animals that are commonly hunted such as duck, geese, ostrich, quail, rabbit, and deer (venison). In addition, many of these animals' eggs are edible and are similar nutritionally to the commonly eaten chicken eggs.
They are a great source of complete proteins and despite popular thought, in some cases can provide more of their fat as unsaturated than saturated. They both provide an array of vitamins and minerals but as a food group are particularly strong in the levels of selenium (a powerful antioxidant).
While choosing free-range poultry and eggs means a higher quality food source, it doesn't necessarily translate into higher nutrient levels in the food. However, it is a significant factor in avoiding bodily toxins including growth hormones used to increase yield and antibiotics to treat diseased animals caused by questionable farming practices. These considerations need not apply to wild game.
Keep this in mind: Lose the Skin and Choose Local, Free-Range, or Organic to Avoid the Bad Stuff.
The last two food groups in the daily food guide should play a limited role in the diet. People may question this notion because we are so accustomed to beef and dairy being a modern diet staple. The main rationale behind this recommendation is these groups' propensity to increase risk for degenerative lifestyle diseases. That being said, the daily food guide can offer healthy options in both the livestock and dairy group when consumed moderately.
Dairy refers to cow's milk and products created from it such as yogurt, cheese, cream, and butter. Generally, dairy contains significant sources of calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. There are two schools of thought when it comes to dairy consumption.
The first is widely upheld by conventional nutritionists and government agencies which is to focus on consuming low-fat or non-fat options. This is in line with the goal of reducing saturated fat in the modern diet and increasing dairy consumption to obtain calcium and enriched vitamin D.
The second view is that processing diminishes many of nutrients that make milk and its products nutritionally valuable. Creating a skimmed or reduced fat milk requires centrifuging whole milk to separate the cream from the non-fat milk product. This milk is then subjected to high heat and pressure in an effort to excess water and create milk solids, giving the skimmed milk product a more desirable texture.
All commercially-produced milk undergoes homogenization and pasteurization. Natural milk is a suspension which, over time, will separate as the cream floats to the top. Many people associate this with a spoiled product and homogenization is the solution.
It is a process that passes milk at high speeds through very tiny wholes which break the larger milk-fat molecules up to create a uniform product. Pasteurization is the process of killing all bacteria, some of which is believed to be beneficial, within the milk by subjecting it to temperatures approaching the boiling point of water.
After this extensive processing, milk is bottled and shipped to the local supermarket. Advocates of this stance not only believe that skim or low-fat is the most nutritionally inferior dairy product available to the consumer , but also that with proper caution taken to find a quality supplier unprocessed, raw milk is the best way to consume dairy.
In any case, your healthy diet plan should treat dairy as playing a limited role to enjoy occasionally rather than as a staple with every meal as suggested by federal government agencies.
The daily food guide treats Livestock to include many of the animal food sources that are casually referred to as red meat. Cattle (beef & veal), pig (pork), and lamb make up the majority of the livestock consumed in developed countries. Bison is included in this group and is growing in popularity due to its lean characteristic and increasing availability. Other controversial livestock not considered proper, but in certain regions are commonly consumed are horse, kangaroo, llama, yak, goat, and guinea pig.
As a whole, common livestock is calorie-dense because a majority of its calories are in the form of fat. Despite mainstream notion, including saturated fat within your healthy diet plan is not unhealthy. Remember, your healthy diet plan is not about prohibiting food groups, but rather about balance! So, eating a food source where the majority of the calories come in the form of saturated fat all the time is unhealthy because it is not in balance.
That being said, livestock offers an excellent source of protein, is rich in vitamins especially B12, and contributes significantly to necessary zinc and iron mineral intakes. When choosing livestock, we should make two considerations.
First, is the cut or part of the animal to consume. Most livestock can be found in a ground format. Make sure to look for the leanest cut, at least 90% lean, ideally 95% or higher leanness. Our daily food guide recommends asking the butcher for the leanest cuts when purchasing beef, pork, or veal.
As previously mentioned, the second consideration is sourcing and applies all animal-based products. The farming practices of livestock in order to meet the mass production standards have abandoned traditional practices in order to meet consumer demand and keep costs low. Antibiotics, hormones, and malnutrition are common in the livestock we consume today.
Pasture-raised, grass-fed, or free-range are all terms for livestock that are reared more traditionally in a small scale operation. Buying locally from farms that use these practices is more expensive, however, the product is free of hormones and antibiotics which can be passed into our bloodstream. In addition, these animals are generally healthier and are a greater source of nutrition for us.
Follow this guideline for Red Light food groups: Choose Lean Cuts, Moderate Portions, and Consider the Source.
Another important way the daily food guide looks at food groups is by comparing the majority of macronutrients each group contains. Some of the groups are classified in more than one group because the majority of calories depends on which specific food, or even which part, is consumed within each group.
Fats & Oils
Our daily food guide intends to redefine food groups, introduce an easier method to eating food in healthy proportions, and offer practical advise to help include them in your healthy diet plan. Still, we realize this is a lot of information. It can be confusing and you may have a lot of questions. Don't worry, this is to be expected.
It is so important to remember that at the end of the day, you are accountable to yourself, and only yourself when it comes to implementing and maintaining your healthy diet.
The vast amount of information on this website is here to empower you to achieve your personal health goals relating to nutrition. When you seem to overwhelmed, keep pushing forward. Day by day, you will do more good for your body and mind!
As we continue on to see how the macronutrients are incorporated into your healthy diet plan, you will get a firmer understanding as to why the daily food guide is organized in this particular way and how it can be a valuable tool to your continued success!
**As always, feel free to use the navigation below to backtrack and get an overview of Healthy Diet Mentor and our plan to get you on your way to a lifelong healthy diet.
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