If we are sometimes overwhelmed over such terms as calories, vitamins, RDA, minerals, and so forth, it is quite understandable. Balancing your diet is not such a daunting task. Without going too much into the details of these terms, you can reach a good middle-of-the-road plan that is almost foolproof.
Over the years, nutritionists have worked out what is known as the “basic seven” food groups. If these foods are included in the diet each day, they will meet the needs of the whole family very well. One does not have to bother with all the endless details of a complicated diet. Just follow this basic plan.
1. Green and yellow leafy vegetables
These may be eaten either cooked or raw, fresh or frozen. They include cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, sprouts, asparagus, spinach, celery, and similar greens. These provide vitamin A to protect eyes and skin and to guard against infection. They also provide iron for the blood and roughage for elimination.
2. Fruits – at least two each day
One may be an orange or some other citrus fruits. Another may be a banana, tomato, apple, pear, peach, a bunch of grapes, or some tropical fruit. For variety, use strawberries, cantaloupe, or some type of melon. These fruits provide vitamin C, which is essential for strong blood vessels and healthy gums and teeth. They also provide roughage for better bowel movement. Fresh fruits are best for these purposes. Heat destroys vitamin C.
3. Potatoes, root crops, bulbs, and beans
Two or more servings should be eaten each day. These include Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, beets carrots, parsnips, lentils, onions, peas, beans, soybeans, and the like. Vitamins and minerals are present in all vegetables. Potatoes are a good source especially when cooked with their skins. Vegetables may be used in various ways. Raw carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A. These vegetables provide bulk , which aids in digestion.
4. Milk and dairy products
The very minimum for an adult should be a pint a day or more and a quart a day for each growing child or pregnant mother. Nursing mothers need even more. The milk may be in fluid form, as whole milk, buttermilk, skim milk, canned, condensed, powdered, or some form of cheese. One ounce of cheddar cheese is equal to a cup of milk. The milk can be used as a beverage or in cooking, such as soups, puddings, and desserts. Milk is a fine source of protein. It also provides minerals, vitamins, and calcium, which is needed for bones, teeth, nerves, and muscles.
5. Protein-rich foods
Foods that are rich in proteins include beans, peas, soybeans, nuts, peanuts, eggs, meat, or fish. Soybeans are an excellent source of protein. They are far richer than eggs, liver, kidney, or any other meat products and far less expensive. They have been used in the Orient for ages. Dried peas, beans, lentils, and peanuts are similar to meat in food value.
6. Whole grain cereals and breads
Have at least two or three slices of bread and one dish of cooked cereal each day. These are particularly valuable for growing children and adults who work hard. Whole grains include wheat, rice, barley, corn, and other grains. “Enriched white flour” is better than ordinary white flour, but is still lacking in certain essential elements. Grains and cereals provide calories for energy, as well as vitamins, minerals, and roughage. Freshly ground whole grains are best.
7. Butter and vegetable fats
A certain amount of fat is essential in every diet. Olive oils, corn oil, coconut oil, and similar products may be substituted to meet the daily requirements for fat in the diet. Fats provide calories for heat and energy as carbohydrates. Other foods rich in fats are egg yolk, vegetable oils, olives, nuts, and soybeans.
These are the “basic seven” food groups. One or two from each group should be included in the diet of the whole family every day. The quantities need not be large; the wider the variety, the better. Be creative in serving food. Eye appeal is always important. In addition to these “basic seven” food groups one should include at least six to eight glasses of water each day.