Dietary Recommendations

The United States Recommended Daily Allowances (listed on food labels) meet the known nutrient needs of almost all healthy people. They serve as a standard for nutrient intake based on the population group with the highest RDA for that nutrient.

Protein Foods - Two servings for a daily total of six (cooked) ounces. Suggested serving sizes by weight include:

  • 3 ounces chicken, turkey, veal
  • 3 ounces fish: flounder, cod, salmon, tuna, scallops
  • 3 ounces lean meat: beef, lamb, pork (use less often)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 cup legumes

*Limit egg consumption to 3-4 yolks or less per week, including those used in cooking.

Vegetables and Fruits - Five or more servings daily. Suggested serving sizes include:

  • 1/2 to 1 cup cooked or raw
  • 1/2 cup juice or 1 medium-size piece

*One serving of asparagus, broccoli, cabbage (raw), tomatoes, berries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, mango, orange, papaya, strawberries, or tangerines will provide a good source of Vitamin C.

*One serving of broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, kale, peas, rutabagas, spinach, string beans, watercress, winter squash, or yellow corn will provide a good source of Vitamin A.

Breads, Cereals, and Starchy Foods - Six or more servings daily. Suggested serving sizes include:

  • 1 slice whole-grain breads
  • 1/2 cup cooked cereal
  • 1 cup flaked cereal
  • 1 cup pasta or rice
  • 3 cups popcorn (no fat added)
  • 6 saltine crackers

Dairy Products - Adults: 2-3 servings daily; Children and Adolescents: 3-4 servings daily. Suggested serving sizes include:

  • 1 cup skim milk, 1/2% or 1%
  • 1 cup nonfat or low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 to 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 ounce low-fat cheese (made with low-fat or skim milk)
  • 1/2 cup ice milk

*Female athletes, especially with stopped menstrual cycles, may need four servings per day to help maintain strong bones.

Fats - Use in moderation; restrict if necessary for weight control. A suggested serving size includes:

  • 1 teaspoon oil - safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, olive, canola
  • 1 teaspoon margarine (label should indicate less than 2 g saturated fat per tablespoon)
  • 2 teaspoons no-fat or low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons no-fat or low-fat mayonnaise-type salad dressing
  • 2 teaspoons sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon nuts

Desserts, Sweets, and Snacks - If watching weight, use items moderately (one to two servings daily). Choose low-calorie, low-fat desserts and sweets such as fresh fruit, sherbet, ices, or any dessert made from ingredients listed in the food plan. If training an hour or more a day, plan high-carbohydrate, high-protein snacks to meet energy needs. Low-fat fruit yogurt or a whole-wheat sandwich with an ounce of lean turkey and a piece of fruit will work. A cup of dry cereal mixed with raisins or other dry fruit can sit in plastic bags as snacks away from home. Athletes can also add juice and sports drinks that have glucose polymers to meet fluid, carbohydrate, and electrolyte needs.

General Tips

  • Total fat intake should not exceed 30 percent of calories.
  • Saturated fatty acid (found primarily in animal fats, but also in palm and coconut oil) intake should fall under 10 percent of calories.
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acid (corn, soybean, and sunflower oil) intake should not exceed 10 percent of calories.
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids (canola and olive oil) make up the rest of total fat intake, about 10 to 15 percent of total calories.
  • Cholesterol (found in foods from animals: beef, pork, mutton, poultry, fish, dairy products, egg yolks) intake should fall under 300 milligrams per day. Read food labels to find compounds that contain salt.
  • Meet vitamin and mineral needs to help regulate the body's chemical reactions. Eat a well-balanced diet that includes all kinds of foods. Protein builds, repairs, and maintains body tissues. Minerals form structures of the body and regulate body processes. Electrolytes help maintain fluid balance sodium.
  • Adjust calorie intake to keep ideal weight. Physical activity helps achieve this goal.
  • Bodies need energy to exercise. So, eat a diet fairly high in carbohydrates. Increase the amount of fruits, vegetables, and other carbohydrates consumed, especially complex types such as whole-grain breads and cereals, starchy vegetables, and legumes.
  • Drink fluids before, during, and after a workout that lasts 30 minutes or more, especially in warm weather. While working out vigorously for 30-60 minutes or longer, drink 6-8 ounces of fluid every 10-15 minutes. Water maintains ability to deliver energy and oxygen to working muscles and maintains body temperature.
  • Avoid salt tablets. Too much salt puts an extra burden on the kidneys. Replace sodium lost during exercise with food.
  • Keep a daily weight chart in the hot summer months to check for hydration. Drink more fluid if 2-3 pounds (or more) lighter in the morning than usual weight.
  • Avoid eating lots of sugar before exercise. It may cause dehydration, stomach discomfort, and, depending on the time period, low blood sugar.
  • Eating large portions of high-fat foods can delay digestion. Before working out, eat high energy carbohydrates such as bread, cereal, and pasta.