Nutrition is the process of providing the body with the nutrients necessary to function in everyday life. Eating a balanced diet composed of the proper proportion of nutrients is one of the most important things to do in order to live a healthy lifestyle. The six classes of nutrients that the body needs to function efficiently are:

  • carbohydrates,
  • fats,
  • minerals,
  • protein,
  • vitamins,   
  • and water.

Calories that we consume can be categorized as either “essential” calories or “extra” calories. Essential calories are the minimum amount of calories you need to meet your nutrient needs and to have energy for everyday functioning. By choosing foods with the lowest amount of fat and sugar in each food group, you make consume your essential caloric needs. Extra calories are additions to the minimum amount of calories needed to function, and are found in foods with higher levels of fat and sugar in each food group.

Balancing your caloric intake as well as the kinds of foods you eat is the key to maintaining good nutrition. Here are recommended amounts of each food group that men and women between the ages of 19 and 30 need to consume daily for normal functioning. For more information about these portion sizes and what they consist of, go to

  • Grains: (bread, pasta, oatmeal, cereals, tortillas)
  • Women: 6 servings of 1 oz. each
  • Men: 8 servings of 1 oz. each
  • Vegetables: (broccoli, carrots, squash, spinach, tomatoes)
  • Women: 2 ½ cups
  • Men: 3 cups
  • Fruits: (apples, bananas, peaches, berries, melon, pineapple)
  • Women: 2 cups
  • Men: 2 cups
  • Dairy: (milk, yogurt, cheese)
  • Women: 3 cups
  • Men: 3 cups
  • Protein: (meat, poultry, eggs, fish, beans)
  • Women: 5 ½ servings of 1 oz. each
  • Men: 6 ½ servings of 1 oz. each

Eating a balanced diet while limiting the amount of extra calories can help prevent a number of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. Eating a healthy diet can also improve sleep, physical fitness, brain function, and lower stress levels. For more information about nutrition and how to eat a balanced diet, see our list of resources below.

Further Reading

Dietary Guidelines:

What's in My Food?

How to Read Nutrition Labels:

Interactive Meal Planning:

Advice for Healthy Eating in the Real World:

Healthy Ways to Diet:

Healthy Recipes:

Caesar on the Lighter Side:

Grilled Chicken Salad with Olives and Oranges:

Spicy Ground Turkey Tacos:

Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary Potatoes:

Yellow Trio:

Breakfast Burrito:

Zucchini Bread:

Chocolate Pudding Pie:

Good Websites to Find Other Healthy Eating Guides and Recipes:


Last Updated: 4/18/2012