The following is from, an interactive website for teenagers and young adults.

November 4, 1999


I've heard a lot of advice that it's important to eat healthy, but am unsure how to start. Can you give me some information?

Signed:            Eating Healthy


Dear Eating Healthy,

Eating healthy should be a very important part of your life, but its okay to not eat perfect all the time. Use the food pyramid as a guideline, keeping in mind that each person differs in his or her nutritional needs - especially teenagers. Teenagers need more servings in each pyramid section to fulfill their nutritional requirements because of growth spurts and physical activity. On the average, teenage females should follow a 2200 calorie-a-day meal plan and teenage males should follow a 2800 calorie-a-day meal plan. **Teenage males and females should have at least 4.5 servings of milk, cheese or yogurt per day!**

Here is a picture of the food pyramid:

The food pyramid is broken down into six categories ranging from the largest categories at the bottom (foods you should eat the most) and the smallest categories at the top (foods you should eat the least).

The groups include:

Breads, Cereal, Rice & Pasta

This group is the largest, which means your daily diet should consist mostly of breads, cereals, rice & pasta with at least 6-11 servings daily. These carbohydrate filled foods provide the body with energy and iron. Here are some examples and serving sizes of this group:

  • A small roll, biscuit or muffin
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 hamburger bun, English muffin or bagel
  • 1/2 cup of pasta, rice or cooked cereal
  • 1 ounce cold cereal

Your daily diet should have at least 3-5 servings of vegetables daily. Vegetables provide the body with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Here are some examples and serving sizes for this group:

  • 3/4 cup vegetable juice
  • 1 cup leafy raw vegetables, such as spinach or lettuce
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw or cooked vegetables

2-4 servings of fruit daily provides the body with carbohydrates for energy, vitamins for proper body functioning, and fiber to help digestion. Here are some examples and serving sizes for this group:

  • 1/4 cup dried fruit
  • a melon wedge
  • 1/2 cup of berries
  • 3/4 cup juice
  • a whole apple, banana or orange
  • 1/2 cup chopped, cooked or canned fruit

Milk, Yogurt & Cheese

As mentioned earlier, milk, yogurt and cheeses are a very important part of a teenager's development because it helps increase bone density, needed to prevent broken bones, fractures and osteoporosis. It is recommended for teenagers and young adults to have at least 4.5 servings daily or 1300 mg of calcium. Here are some examples and serving sizes for this group:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1-1/2 ounces natural cheese
  • 2 ounces processed cheese
  • 8 ounces of yogurt
Meats, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs & Nuts

2-3 servings from this group are required daily to give your body protein and iron for proper functioning and energy. Here are some examples and serving sizes for this group.

  • 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, fish, chicken without skin and tofu
  • 2 cooked eggs
  • 1cup cooked dry beans
  • 4 tablespoons of peanut butter
Fats, Oils, & Sweets

This is the smallest of all the groups on the food pyramid. While no one should completely stop eating fats, oils, and sweets, you should try to eat less of these foods.

Eating healthy is good for you and will pay off in the long run. The food pyramid is considered a guideline, but not something that has to be followed all the time. In fact, it is quite normal to go above in calories some days and have more of certain foods on other days. Some basic rules to follow for good eating is to eat a variety of foods, balance your food intake with physical activity, eat lots of grains, fruits and vegetables, keep your diet low in fat, cholesterol, salt and sodium, and don't eat to many sweets.

Happy eating!


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