What should you consider when planning your diet? Well, it’s important to think about adequacy, balance, calorie control, nutrient density, moderation, and variety. Although diet experts use many procedures and techniques to develop diet plans, the six principles below are common among all effective diets. You can even use these to evaluate different diets you read or hear about. The principles are easy to remember with the acronym ABCDMV (Remember “ABCD-My Victory!”).
- Adequacy: No matter the diet, it should provide sufficient intake of energy (calories) and adequate amounts of all of the nutrients required for a healthy diet.
- Balance: While your diet should provide adequate amounts of the foods you need, it shouldn’t provide too much of any one type of food.
- Calorie Control: Ready for the big “secret” to losing weight? It’s as simple as this – take in fewer calories than you expend, and you will lose weight. Likewise, if you take in more calories than your body burns, you will gain weight. To maintain a desired weight, you must match your intake to your calorie expenditure.
- Nutrient Density: Nutrient density is a measure of the amount of nutrients a certain food provides in comparison to the amount of calories it contains. For example, the amount of protein in 1 ounce of a lean meat like chicken is about 7 grams. You will also get 7 grams of protein from 1 ounce of sausage, but the chicken contains more nutrients and the sausage contains more calories. Therefore, the chicken is more “nutrient dense.” Some foods are referred to as “empty-calorie foods.” These include foods like soda and potato chips. These types of foods provide very little nutritional benefit, but are high in calories from the sugars or fats they contain.
- Moderation: Perhaps the most difficult thing for most people to do is to practice moderation. It’s sometimes hard to stop yourself from eating too much of something you really like. Limit the amount of unhealthy foods you consume. Try to select foods with a high nutritional density.
- Variety: It’s unrealistic to eat the same foods every day. Variety provides a way of ensuring you don’t get bored with the foods you eat. Variety also ensures you get different amounts of nutrients from different types of foods.
It’s important to note that all of the principles listed above are interrelated. By ensuring your diet contains adequacy, balance, calorie control, nutrient density, moderation, and variety, you’ll be well on your way to eating healthier!
To find out more about dietary needs, check out Dietary Guidelines for Americans at www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines.
Also, the USDA Food Guide breaks foods up into groups to help with creating a balanced diet. The USDA Food Guide can be found at mypyramid.gov.