Chapter 1 Key Elements of Healthy Eating PatternsPrint this section
Healthy Eating Patterns: Dietary Principles
Healthy eating patterns support a healthy body weight and can help prevent and reduce the risk of chronic disease throughout periods of growth, development, and aging as well as during pregnancy. The following principles apply to meeting the Key Recommendations:
An eating pattern represents the totality of all foods and beverages consumed. All foods consumed as part of a healthy eating pattern fit together like a puzzle to meet nutritional needs without exceeding limits, such as those for saturated fats, added sugars, sodium, and total calories. All forms of foods, including fresh, canned, dried, and frozen, can be included in healthy eating patterns.
Nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods. Individuals should aim to meet their nutrient needs through healthy eating patterns that include nutrient-dense foods. Foods in nutrient-dense forms contain essential vitamins and minerals and also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects. In some cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements may be useful in providing one or more nutrients that otherwise may be consumed in less than recommended amounts (see Chapter 2. Shifts Needed To Align With Healthy Eating Patterns).
Healthy eating patterns are adaptable. Individuals have more than one way to achieve a healthy eating pattern. Any eating pattern can be tailored to the individual’s socio-cultural and personal preferences.
Healthy Physical Activity Patternsmore▼
Key Recommendation: Meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
In addition to consuming a healthy eating pattern, individuals in the United States should meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Regular physical activity is one of the most important things individuals can do to improve their health. The Physical Activity Guidelines, released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides a comprehensive set of recommendations for Americans on the amounts and types of physical activity needed each day (see Appendix 1. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans). Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity and should perform muscle-strengthening exercises on 2 or more days each week. Youth ages 6 to 17 years need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, including aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities. Establishing and maintaining a regular physical activity pattern can provide many health benefits. Strong evidence shows that regular physical activity helps people maintain a healthy weight, prevent excessive weight gain, and lose weight when combined with a healthy eating pattern lower in calories. Strong evidence also demonstrates that regular physical activity lowers the risk of early death, coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, adverse blood lipid profile, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, and metabolic syndrome; it also reduces depression and prevents falls. People can engage in regular physical activity in a variety of ways throughout the day and by choosing activities they enjoy. The Physical Activity Guidelines provides additional details on the benefits of physical activity and strategies to incorporate regular physical activity into a healthy lifestyle.