3 Diet Plans to Consider: How to Eat Healthy

When choosing among multiple diet plans, select one that fulfills your complete nutrition needs.

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion issued three recommend eating plans in its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020 edition.

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

It’s one thing to know which foods are healthy—and another thing to create a diet plan that incorporates those foods. Fortunately, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides detailed information on three different diet plans: the “Healthy U.S.-Style,” “Healthy Mediterranean-Style,” and “Healthy Vegetarian” eating patterns.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) is an initiative created by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Its primary goal appears in this statement: “One of our government’s most important responsibilities is to protect the health of the American public. Today, about half of all American adults—117 million people—have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor-quality eating patterns and physical inactivity.”

Below, we offer the essential elements of the three diet plans offered in the 2015-2020 DGA.

Diet Plan #1: Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern

This diet plan is based on foods Americans typically consume. The following amounts are recommended for a diet that provides 2,000 calories per day:

ABOUT THOSE “EQUIVALENTS”

According to the DGA, “Some foods are more concentrated, and some are more airy or contain more water. Cup- and ounce-equivalents identify the amounts of foods from each food group with similar nutritional content.” For example, ½ cup of carrots and 1 cup of Romaine lettuce both count as ½ cup-equivalent, and 1 ounce of tuna and ½ ounce of almonds both count as 1 ounce-equivalent.

Vegetables: 2½ cup-equivalents per day (½ cup of cooked or raw vegetables or 1 cup of leafy greens [spinach, lettuce] counts as ½ cup-equivalent). Legumes, which include lentils, beans, and peas, can be counted as a vegetable or a protein (see below) with the exception of green peas, which are a starchy vegetable.

The guidelines break down the vegetables category into subtypes and recommend the following cup-equivalents each week:

  • Dark-green vegetables: 1½ cups
  • Red and orange vegetables: 5½ cups
  • Legumes: 1½ cups
  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, green peas, winter squash): 5 cups
  • Other vegetables: 4 cups

Fruits: 2 cup-equivalents per day (¼ cup dried fruit or ½ cup sliced, cubed, or mashed fruit or ½ cup 100-percent fruit juice counts as ½ cup-equivalents). At least half of your daily fruit should come from whole fruit, since fruit juice is lower in fiber than whole fruit.

Grains: 6 ounce-equivalents per day, with at least half in the form of whole grains (1 slice of bread, ½ bagel, or ½ cup of cooked grains or pasta count as 1 ounce-equivalent).

Dairy: 3 cup-equivalents per day (1 cup, 8 ounces) of milk, yogurt, or soymilk or 1½ ounces of cheese counts as 1 cup-equivalent).

Protein: 5½ ounce-equivalents per day (1 ounce of seafood, meat, or poultry, 1 large egg, ½ cup cooked beans or peas, ½ ounce nuts or seeds, or 1 tablespoon peanut butter count as 1 ounce-equivalent). All meats and poultry should be lean, defined as having less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 or fewer grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5-ounce serving.

The guidelines break down the protein category into subtypes and recommend the following ounce-equivalents each week:

  • Seafood: At least 8 ounce-equivalents
  • Meats, poultry, and eggs: 26 ounce-equivalents
  • Nuts, seeds, and soy products (such as tofu): 5 ounce-equivalents
  • Oils: 27 g (about 5 teaspoons) per day

diet plans


Diet Plan #2: Healthy Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern

This diet plan is similar to the Healthy U.S.-Style pattern but contains more fruits and seafood and fewer dairy foods. The following amounts are recommended for a diet that provides 2,000 calories per day:

Vegetables: 2½ cup-equivalents per day. Recommendations for subtypes are the same as the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern (see above).

Fruits: 2½ cup-equivalents per day.

Grains: 6 ounce-equivalents per day, with at least half in the form of whole grains.

Dairy: 2 cup-equivalents per day.

Protein: 6½ ounce-equivalents per day.

The guidelines break down the protein category into subtypes and recommend the fol-lowing ounce-equivalents each week:

  • Seafood: 15 ounce-equivalents
  • Meats, poultry, and eggs: 26 ounce-equivalents
  • Nuts, seeds, and soy products (such as tofu): 5 ounce-equivalents
  • Oils: 27 g (about 5 teaspoons) per day

Diet Plan #3: Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern

This diet plan contains no meat or poultry, but it does contain dairy and eggs as well as plant sources of protein such as legumes and soy foods. The following amounts are rec-ommended for a diet that provides 2,000 calories per day:

Vegetables: 2½ cup-equivalents per day; recommendations for subtypes are the same as the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern (see above).

Fruits: 1½ cup-equivalents per day.

Grains: 6½ ounce-equivalents per day.

Dairy: 3 cup-equivalents per day.

Protein: 3 ounce-equivalents per day.

The guidelines break down the protein category into subtypes and recommend the following ounce-equivalents each week:

  • Eggs: 3 ounce-equivalents
  • Legumes: 6 ounce-equivalents
  • Soy products: 6 ounce-equivalents
  • Nuts and seeds: 6 ounce-equivalents
  • Oils: 24g (about 4½ teaspoons) per day

As you can see from the similarities among these three eating patterns, the key to a healthy diet plan is getting enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein. These eating patterns also are similar in what they do not include: processed foods and food products that contain added sugar, saturated and trans fats, sodium, additives, and other ingredients that lack valuable nutrients.

DIET PLANS: GUIDELINES IN A NUTSHELL

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans offers these five “overarching” goals for the diet plans discussed on this page.

1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan.
All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

2. Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount.
To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.

3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.
Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.

4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.

5. Support healthy eating patterns for all.
Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.

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