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September 20, 2015

What Does It Mean to Eat A Balanced Diet?

Fitness First USA

The USDA has developed a general food guide for a well-balanced diet that suggests the following daily amounts:


3 to 5 servings


2 to 4 servings

Breads, Cereals, Rice, Pasta:

6 to 11 servings

Milk, Yogurt, Cheese:

2 to 4 servings

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dried Beans and Peas, Eggs, Nuts:

2 to 3 servings

Your body is like an engine that needs fuel to run. If you supply it with high quality fuel, it will operate more efficiently and healthfully. Each of the five groups above supplies important nutrients and energy to fuel the body:

Vegetables and Fruits

supply fiber and important vitamins.

Breads, Cereals, Rice and Pasta

are sources of complex carbohydrates that the body turns into glycogen, our most important energy resource.

Milk, Yogurt and Cheese

are all dairy products that supply calcium, protein and vitamins. These nutrients can be found in non-dairy sources as well.

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dried Beans and Peas, Eggs and Nuts

are all good sources of protein, important for building and maintaining our muscles. The key to a balanced diet is a variety.

How much calcium should females of all ages consume?

Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by the weakening of post-menopausal women's bones. Although it may not affect you until you are much older, it is preventable BEFORE you reach that age. Consuming enough calcium throughout life is one very important way to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The preteen and teen years comprise a period of accelerated bone growth and are the most important years to consume adequate amounts of calcium.


  • 1-3 years 500 mg
  • 4-8 years 800 mg
  • Preteen/teens

  • 9-18 years 1,300 mg
  • Adults

  • 19-50 years 1,000 mg
  • 50+ years 1,200-1,500 mg
  • Pregnant or breast-feeding

  • 1,200-1,500 mg**
Source: National Academy of Sciences 1997
**Source: NIH Consensus Panel on Optimal Calcium Intake

The following are examples of foods that are good sources of calcium.

  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt 375 mg
  • 1 cup soy milk, calcium fortified ~300 mg
  • 1 cup spinach, cooked 277 mg
  • 1 cup milk 275 mg
  • 1 ounce Swiss cheese 271 mg
  • 1 cup orange juice, calcium fortified 267 mg
  • 1 ounce cheddar cheese 200 mg
  • 1 cup frozen yogurt 150 mg
  • 1/2 cup firm tofu 140 mg
  • 1 cup ice cream 113 mg
  • 1 cup winter squash, cooked 85 mg
  • 1 medium orange 54 mg

What should the female athlete eat?

(Adapted from "Eating to Learn" produced by the Harvard University Health Service)

If you exercise, then you burn calories. It is important that athletes eat enough food to fuel their activity level. The amount of calories required can be calculated by the following: basic metabolism + workout fuel = total caloric needs

Most people need to consume 15 calories/pound of weight just to maintain their bodies (but this may range between 13 and 19 cal/lb depending on metabolic rate). Aerobic workouts generally use 7-10 calories/minute. Once appropriate caloric needs are determined, an athlete should aim to consume a fuel mix in which carbohydrates account for approximately 65%, fat is 20% and protein is 15% of calories.