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The Importance of Healthy Eating

A healthy eating pattern is fundamental to the maintenance of good health and wellbeing. A healthy diet is one of the most important ways you can maintain an active lifestyle and protect against health problems. It benefits almost every aspect of your health, throughout your lifetime. Your food choices play a major role in:

  • Promoting and maintaining good health;
  • Promoting optimal growth in infants, children and adolescents;
  • Preventing many chronic diseases (like heart disease and diabetes) and treating others; and,
  • Speeding recovery from injuries and surgery.

General Guidelines for Healthy Eating

In April of 2005, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a new food guidance system called MyPyramid, which incorporates recommendations from the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MyPyramid was developed to carry the messages of the dietary guidelines and to make Americans aware of the vital health benefits of simple and modest improvements in nutrition, physical activity and lifestyle behavior. According to the USDA, the MyPyramid "symbolizes a personalized approach to healthy eating and physical activity."

A healthy diet includes eating a variety of foods from the basic food groups: protein, such as meat, eggs, and legumes; dairy; fruits and vegetables; grains, such as breads and pasta; and fats and sweets. Variety is important because no one food can provide all the nutrients the body needs for optimal health. Get the most nutrition out of your calories, by choosing the most nutritionally rich foods you can from each food group - those packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but lower in calories. Foods and beverages that are less nutritious do not have to be eliminated but should be consumed in moderation or eaten only occasionally. Strive to choose foods that are better for your health more often.

Physical Activity

Regular physical activity, fitness, and exercise are critically important for the health and well being of everyone. People of all ages who are generally inactive can improve their health and well-being by becoming active at a moderate-intensity on a regular basis. Experts recommend being physically active for at least 30 minutes each day on most, if not all, days of the week. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, particularly after you have lost a large amount of weight, you may need to do 60 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity each day. Children and teenagers should be physically active for 60 minutes every day, or most days. Of course, knowing that physical activity is good for you doesn't mean that it will be easy to make it part of your daily routine-it can be difficult to adopt new habits. However, it's important to remember that you can start out slowly and work your way up to a higher level of activity. If you have been inactive for a while, start slowly and work up to 30 minutes a day at a pace that is comfortable for you. If 30 minutes at one time is too much for you, try to build up to 30 minutes over the course of the day in 10-15 minute sessions.

The benefits of a physically active lifestyle are ageless. During childhood and adolescence, regular physical activity helps to reduce the risk of being overweight, strengthen bones, improve nutrient intake, and encourage a physically active lifestyle in ensuing years. For adults, moderate levels of physical activity plays a critical role in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, obesity, certain cancers, osteoporosis and other debilitating conditions. Physical activity also helps the body use calories more efficiently, thereby helping in weight loss and maintenance. It can increase basal metabolic rate, reduces appetite, and helps in the reduction of body fat.

Finding a Balance

Physical activity alone is not the answer to good health. Physical activity should be combined with a nutritious diet made up of a variety of foods, in moderation, from the major food groups. In order to maintain a healthy weight, there must be a balance between calories consumed and calories expended. To lose weight, calories expended must be greater than calories eaten. It really is a balance!

The key to seeing results in your nutrition and exercise program is to make a firm commitment to it—focus on making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. Talk to your doctor or healthcare practitioner about the diet and exercise program that is right for you.

The Importance of Healthy Eating is an EHE International publication and is reprinted and distributed with its expressed written permission. EHE International, 10 Rockefeller Plaza, 4th Floor, New York, New York 10020; 212.332.3738;

Since 1913, EHE has been the recognized leader in employee and individual Preventive Healthcare Plans (PHP) specifically designed for the early identification of preventable disease and risk factors; clinical management of health findings; referral resources; and personal coaching intervention programs of adverse lifestyle behaviors associated with poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and smoking. It’s nationally available PHP is a comprehensive, integrated approach to preventive healthcare for the reduction and management of future medical claims expense. For more information, contact EHE International.