A good step toward eating healthy, however, is simply knowing the basics regarding body weight and healthy foods. Although it is important that people educate themselves, the safest and most accurate way to achieve a healthy body weight is for people to talk with their physicians about their specific needs.
Measures of a Healthy Body Weight
Maintaining a healthy body weight is important to prevent and control certain health conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure. Just looking at one’s body may not be enough to accurately assess whether one’s weight is at a healthy level. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends calculating one’s body mass index (BMI) as a method to determine whether or not one’s weight is at a healthy level. It also recommends waist circumference measurements. By measuring one’s waistline using a tape measure, it is possible to determine whether the circumference exceeds what is considered healthy. For men, a waist circumference of more than forty inches places them at risk of conditions that are related to obesity. For women who are not currently pregnant, a waist circumference of thirty-five inches or more is cause for concern.
A person may calculate his or her BMI by using one of the many BMI calculators found on the Internet. To do this a person will need his or her measurements for height and weight. These numbers are entered into the calculator which computes the BMI. BMI measurements that are less than 18.5 indicate that an individual is underweight. If the results fall between 18.5 and 24.9, the individual is considered “normal” or “healthy.” Overweight BMI measurements are 25.0 to 29.9 and obese measurements are 30.0 or greater. To manually calculate BMI without the use of an online calculator, one’s height and weight measurement will once again be necessary. The weight must be divided by the height in inches and multiplied by 703.
The BMI measurement and guidelines for children varies from the guidelines used for adults as it is based on age and sex, not height and weight. A BMI for age growth chart is used to determine what percentile a child falls. Children below the fifth percentile are considered underweight, children between the fifth and the 85th are at a healthy weight. A child who is between the 85th and the 95th percentile is considered overweight, while obese children exceed the 95th percentile.
There are five basic food groups that are crucial for healthy eating: vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and proteins such as lean meat, fish, nuts, and beans. The amount of food that a person should eat from each group will vary according to the age, activity level, and gender of the individual. Daily recommendations are typically higher for men and individuals who are highly active. The daily recommendation for each food group is based on an activity level of thirty minutes and must be adjusted accordingly. For the vegetable food group, men who are 19 to 50 years old should eat three cups of vegetables daily. When they are over the age of 50 this amount should be decreased by a half cup. Women who are 19 to 50 years old should consume two and a half cups of vegetables and decrease the daily amount by a half a cup once they are over the age of 50. Adolescent girls and boys require higher daily amounts of vegetables as they grow. Girls who are between 9 and 13 years old should eat the equivalent of two cups of vegetables daily and boys in the same age range should increase that amount by half. Teenage girls who are 14 to 18 years old should have two and a half cups worth of vegetables daily, while boys in the same age group should eat 3 cups daily.
The daily fruit recommendation for men of all ages is the equivalent of two cups. This includes adolescent boys who are 14 to 18 years old. Women who are 19 to 30 years old need two cups of fruit a day, and one and a half cups daily after the age of 30. One and a half cups of fruit is recommended for girls age 9 to 18 and children ages 2 to 8 should have one cup of fruit daily. The dairy group includes milk and items that are made from milk. The daily recommendation for this group is relatively simple and consistent across the board, regardless of age or gender. Everyone who is older than 8 years old should have three cups of dairy daily. Children 2 to 3 years old must have two cups of dairy products a day, and children ages 4 to 8 should eat two and a half cups.
The equivalent of eight ounces is the daily recommended amount of grains, such as bread, rice, and cereal, for men who are 19 to 30 years old. The daily amount of grains should decrease by an ounce after the age of 30 and again after the age of 50. Women ages 19 to 50 should eat the equivalent of six ounces of grain daily and five ounces when they are 51 years old or older. The adolescent daily intake of grain foods for girls and children who are 4 to 13 years old is five ounces or its equivalent, six ounces for boys who are age 9 to 13, and up to eight ounces between the age of 14 and 18. For people of all ages and genders, half of the daily amount of grains should always be whole grain.
Daily protein intake recommendations are as follows: six and a half ounce equivalents for men 19 to 30, six ounces for men 31 to 50 and five and a half ounce equivalents for men who are over 50. Women who are 19 to 30 should consume five and a half ounce equivalents and five ounces after the age of 30. Adolescent girls age 9 to 18 and boys age 9 to 13 should have five ounces or its equivalents daily, while boys who are 14 to 18 should get six and a half. Two ounce equivalents are recommended for children between 2 and 3 years old and four ounces for children 4 to 8.
Healthy Choices for Adolescents
As noted, the dietary requirements for children and teens vary depending on factors such as age and activity level. Although the specifics may vary, there are certain healthy guidelines that can be useful in ensuring that kids eat healthy. Eating three well-balanced meals daily is one of the most important guidelines. Parents should also ensure that their children are eating healthy snacks that consist of fruits or vegetables. When choosing vegetables to feed one’s children, it is important to vary the selection to get a range of vitamins and minerals. When preparing meals they should be low in salt and fat, and higher in fiber. In addition, baked and broiled foods are better suited for a child’s dietary needs than foods that are fried. Sugar in the diet should be limited or eliminated entirely as certain items such as soda can have greater than the recommended daily limit. To prevent iron deficiency parents should provide their kids with iron-rich food items such as spinach, eggs, beans, red meats, and chicken. Iron-fortified cereals are ideal for toddlers who are no longer breast-feeding or drinking formula. Spinach, orange juice, two-percent milk and other dairy products are also good sources of calcium; however, children younger than two must be given whole milk only.
Healthy Choices for Adults
Adults need to continue making the right choices when it comes to what foods they put in their mouths and into their bodies. Although they are beyond their developmental years, the foods that people eat continues to have an effect on how they age and their potential health. When choosing fresh fruits and vegetables, people should pick a variety, such as dark, leafy vegetables and colorful fruits. To get the full nutritional impact of most vegetables, steam them when preparing them, or consider eating certain vegetables raw. Reducing one’s sodium intake in general is also important. Using a variety of herbs can add flavor to food without the sodium. When it comes to buying vegetables, people should avoid canned veggies as they often have sodium added.
Stick with lean proteins and prepare foods with less fat. Avoid frying meat, poultry or fish. Instead, depending on what is being eaten, prepare it in a healthier manner such as broiling, baking, roasting, steaming, or poaching. Adults should use low-fat or non-fat milk and milk products versus whole-fat. Cutting sugar from one’s diet is also important as the empty calories can lead to excess weight and certain diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Fortunately, low-sugar and sugar-free options are available for most things, making it easier to reduce one’s sugar intake. Alcoholic beverages should also be reduced, although it isn’t necessary to eliminate them completely from one’s diet. Various studies indicate that moderate consumption of alcohol may be good for one’s health and help protect against certain conditions such as heart disease.
Healthy Weight Resources
- Assessing Your Weight
- Nutrition for Children and Teens
- KidsHealth Body Mass Index Charts
- Daily Food Plan Calculators
- The Five Food Groups and Nutrition Facts
- Nutrition – The Basics
- Nutrition for Kids: Guidelines for a Healthy Diet
- Nutrition: How to Make Healthy Food Choices
- Healthy Eating for Adults
- Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children
- Dairy Group
- Child Nutrition
- Nutrition: Adolescent
- The Better Body: Eating for Health
- Protein: Are You Getting Enough
- Guide for a Balanced Diet