The Five Principles of Diet Planning
What are some things you should consider when planning your diet? Well, it’s important to think about assortment, balance, calorie control, nutrient density, and eating enough. Although diet experts use many procedures and techniques to develop diet plans, the 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 ABCDE.
- Assortment/Array: 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.
- Balance: While your diet needs variety, it also needs to be balanced. Yes, protein is good for you, but if all you eat is protein, you’re missing out on other nutrients. Similarly, broccoli is a super food, providing fiber, antioxidants, and Vitamin C. But if the only vegetable you eat is broccoli, you’re missing out on a host of other nutrients from other veggies.
- Calorie Control and Moderation: There’s been a lot of talk about calorie control when it comes to effective diets. In fact, many weight loss plans have this as the fundamental principle. It’s largely believed that losing weight is as simple as consuming fewer calories than you expend. Likewise, many believe that if you take in more calories than your body burns, you will gain weight. Each of these statements is at least partially true, but as you may remember from previous episodes, there’s more to the story, right? Regardless, keeping calorie intake to a “normal” level and not over-indulging is a dietary staple. Perhaps the most difficult thing for most people to do is to practice moderation. Sometimes it’s hard to stop yourself from eating too much of something you really like. Try to limit the amount of unhealthy foods you consume, and those that have a high calorie content.
- Nutrient Density: Nutrient density is a measure of the amount of nutrients a certain food provides compared to the number 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. So, they are more “calorie dense.”
- Eat Enough: No matter the diet, it should provide a sufficient amount of energy (calories) and adequate amounts of all nutrients required for a healthy diet. In other words, don’t starve yourself. Diets that extremely restrict calories are not only difficult to maintain for any length of time, but they could send your metabolic system into a tailspin.
It’s important to note that all of the principles listed above are interrelated. By ensuring your diet contains an assortment or array of food options, is balanced, controls calories, emphasizes nutrient density, and provides enough intake, you’ll be well on your way to eating healthier.
If this seems like a lot to take in, don’t worry. Just try focusing on one or two of the principles to start with. Then gradually incorporate other sound nutritional habits and you’ll find that your diet will improve over time!
To find out more about dietary needs, check out the Dietary Guidelines for Americans at http://www.health.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 ChooseMyPlate.gov.