Eating Well for a Healthy Weight
The importance of balancing calories. Plus, healthy diet tips.

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Eating Well for a Healthy Weight

A healthy diet is full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low fat or fat-free dairy products and lean proteins. But some people fall short, often turning to foods packed with salt, added sugar, refined grains and bad fats.

And when you pair an unhealthy diet with little or no exercise, you have a recipe for weight gain - and more.

Overweight or obese people are at a high risk for health problems. These include heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. To lower your risk, you can eat a healthy diet that stays within your calorie needs.

Balancing calories
The key to staying at a healthy weight is to balance calories. That means eating and drinking only as many calories each day as your body needs.

To stay the same weight, you need to burn as many calories as you consume. To gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn. And to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn.

That's where physical activity comes in. Balancing calories is not just about watching what you eat and drink. It's also about staying physically active. Exercise burns calories - besides offering a number of health benefits. Always check with your doctor before you increase your activity level.

How many calories do I need?
This chart from the United States Department of Agriculture's 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans can give you an idea of how many calories you might need to stay at or reach a healthy weight:

Gender Age Sedentary Moderately active Active
Male 19 - 30 2,400-2,600 2,600-2,800 3,000
  31 - 50 2,220-2,400 2,400-2,600 2,800-3,000
  51 + 2,000-2,200 2,200-2,400 2,400-2,800
Female 19 - 30 1,800-2,000 2,000-2,200 2,400
  31 - 50 1,800 2,000 2,200
  51 + 1,600 1,800 2,000-2,200

Ask your doctor how many calories a day are right for you.

Healthy diet tips
While staying physically active, you can eat healthy while keeping within your calorie needs. Try these tips:

  1. Eat lots of colorful fruits and veggies.
  2. Make at least half your grains whole.
  3. Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  4. Eat a variety of protein foods including seafood.
  5. Cut down on salt, added sugars and solid fats.
  6. Limit trans and saturated fats; eat more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
By Lucy M. Casale, Contributing Writer
Created on 07/10/2008
Updated on 07/09/2014
  • United States Department of Agriculture. 2010 dietary guidelines for Americans.
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 physical activity guidelines for Americans.
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