The foundation of a healthy, balanced diet is daily intake of appropriate amounts of vegetables, fruits, grains, lean proteins, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products , according to WebMD. It is best to limit unsaturated fats and oils and replace sweets with fruit whenever possible.
Adults require 2 to 3 cups of nutrient-packed, heart-protective vegetables and up to 2 cups of fruit every day, advises WebMD. At least half of the 5 to 8 ounces of daily grains should be whole grains in the form of breads, cereals and pastas without added fats and sugars. Fish and lean poultry in amounts up to 6 ½ ounces each day are preferable to red meat, and animal protein alternatives, such as tofu, beans and nuts, are good choices. Adults can enjoy up to 3 cups of milk products daily, and those who are lactose intolerant may find yogurt and cheese easier to digest.
When choosing a weight-loss eating plan, reducing daily caloric intake by 500 to 750 calories typically results in a weight loss of 1 to 1 ½ pounds per week, explains the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Most women safely lose weight on 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day. Very active or overweight women and most men find 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day optimal for achieving healthy weight loss. Diets with fewer than 800 calories per day require monitoring by a physician.