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How Much Should I Eat?

The Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourage people to eat a suggested amount from five major food groups every day. If you can’t do that, at least try to eat something from each group each day. Lower fat choices are best. Make sure you include vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain foods. Eating the smallest amount suggested will give you about 1,600 calories a day, the largest number has about 2,800 calories.

The Dietary Guidelines suggest:

Grains—5-10 ounces; some choices are:

One roll, slice of bread, or small muffin, 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta, or about 1 cup (1 oz.) of ready-to-eat cereal

Vegetables—2 to 31/2 cups with a variety of colors and types of vegetables

Fruits—11/2 to 21/2 cups

Milk, yogurt, and cheese—3 cups of milk:

1 cup of yogurt equals one cup of milk, 11/2 to 2 ounces of cheese equals one cup of milk, 1 cup of cottage cheese equals 1/2 cup of milk.

Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts—5 to 7 ounces of lean meat, poultry, or fish:

1/4 cup of cooked beans or tofu, 1 egg, 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds, or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter—each can count as one ounce of meat. Some other tips:

  • Each day eat only small amounts of fats, oils, and sweets.
  • When eating foods from the grains group, try to include at least 3 ounces from whole grains.
  • Sometimes manufacturers put more than one serving in a package or bottle.

Another eating plan suggested by the Dietary Guidelines is called the DASH Eating Plan. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. See the resources at the end of this Age Page for more information on DASH.

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