Nutritionists have developed easy-to-understand guidelines to help us select and consume a more healthful diet. One of the most commonly used guidelines is called the “diet planning principle.” In order to ensure a more healthful diet, we are asked to remember the following: ABCDMV.
Adequacy refers to eating foods that provide all the essential nutrients, fiber and energy in amounts that keep us healthy. A diet would be considered adequate if one is consuming the necessary amounts of calories, iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. This is easier said than done, as is reflected in that only 21 percent of Americans consume one cup of milk per day, 47 percent do not eat a single fruit serving a day and 95 percent do not eat the recommended five to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
Balance refers to the fact that the diet should provide foods of all types in proportion to each other such that foods high in some nutrients should not “crowd out” foods high in other nutrients. For example, high school athletes should not consume an abundance of protein while at the same time crowding out and eating small amounts of carbohydrates. Remember, carbohydrates are what gives all of us the energy to be physically active and increase muscle mass.
Calories refer to the need to balance how much food we consume on a daily basis. Remember that if we eat more calories than we use, we will gain weight. A good rule of thumb for a sedentary person is that they need to eat approximately 10-11 calories per pound of body weight per day to maintain their present size. For example, a 150 lb. person who gets very little physical activity would need to consume between 1500 and 1650 Calories per day to maintain their weight.
Nutrient Density tells us to consume foods that deliver the greatest amount of nutrients for the least amount of calories. Of the four following foods (all of which have about 280 calories), which one delivers the most nutrients – 4 ounces of lean roast beef, one cup of legumes, one fast food restaurant hamburger or one small Snickers bar? If you answered the cup of legumes, you correctly identified the food with the greatest nutrient density.
Moderation refers to eating foods that are high in saturated fats and refined sugars only on occasion while consuming foods low in saturated fats and refined sugars on a regular basis.
Variety is the spice of life, therefore we should eat different foods, even within the same food group, frequently. Even though carrots are considered a healthful food, eating carrots every day for long periods of time may not be the healthiest thing to do.