When talking about the Recommended Daily Allowances, the numbers given by the Nutrition Board are a recommendation, as to what Americans should be eating and how much, in order to maintain their health. These recommendations are broken down into genders and age groups. For example, The RDA for a male fifty years of age is not the same to the RDA of a female 20 years of age.
RDAs are distinct from, but related to, the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) developed by the Food and Drug Administration to be used in food labeling. RDI replaced the term U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances, which was used until new food labeling regulations went into effect in late 1992. All packaged foods were required to bear the new term on labels as of May 1994.
Because RDAs and RDIs are widely used, it is important to understand generally how to interpret them. The recommended allowances for nutrients are amounts intended to be consumed as part of a normal diet, and are neither minimum requirements nor optimal levels of intake; it is not possible based on current research to set such specific guidelines, nor to set a specific amount that would apply to all individuals. Rather, RDAs are safe and adequate levels of intake that reflect current knowledge.
Unfortunately most people don’t eat well, not even the recommended amounts, this is the main cause of deficiency. Experts believe that many of the diseases affecting the average person are the result of not taking the necessary amount of nutrients needed to maintain a good health.
The problem is the complexity of the RDA table for example a child between 0 and 5 years of age needs 375 mg. of vitamin A, 7.5 mg. of vitamin D, 3 mg. of vitamin E, 5 mg. of vitamin K, 30 mg. of vitamin C, etc, etc, etc. and that’s only for ages 0 – 5. As you can see there is no way to tell how much Vitamin D your child is taking a day or how much Iron is on the chicken your child had for lunch. The same problem is found in the RDA tables for men and women.
That is why I recommend the used of another method.One way to know if you are getting the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for all the nutrients you need is to follow the Food guide pyramid. It provides from 1600 to over 2800 calories per day depending on which foods and the number of servings you eat. The assumption is made if you will choose a variety of foods from each of the 5 food groups (Grain, Vegetable, Fruit, Milk, Meat) then you will probably get 100% of your RDA.
The Food Guide Pyramid is a tool used to teach people to eat a balanced diet from a variety of food portions without counting calories or any other nutrient. The USDA expanded the four food groups to six and expanded the number of servings to meet the calorie needs of most persons.
Recommended Daily Allowances
The Top of the Pyramid
Fats, oils and sweets should be used sparingly in the diet and therefore are represented as the small tip of the pyramid. This includes salad dressings, oils, cream, butter, margarine, soft drinks, candies, and sweet desserts. These foods provide calories but little or no vitamins and minerals.
The Middle of the Pyramid
Protein is needed in moderate amounts in the diet and therefore represents the upper middle of the pyramid. Milk, yogurt, cheese; and meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts – two groups of foods that come mostly from animals – are important for protein, calcium, iron and zinc. Choose lean meats, skinless poultry, fish and low-fat dairy products to control fat and cholesterol. Also, limit breaded or fried foods to control fat and calories.
Most Americans need to eat more fruits and vegetables which help form the foundation of the pyramid. Besides being an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fiber, vegetables and fruits (plant foods) are low-fat, low-sodium and cholesterol-free.
Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits will help ensure that you meet your daily need for Vitamin C and other nutrients.
The Base of the Pyramid
Bread, cereals, rice and pasta – all foods from grains – are found at the base of the Pyramid because they are the foundation upon which the rest of the diet is planned. Try to choose 6-11 servings daily. Grains supply fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. They are usually low in fat and are the preferred fuel for our brain, nervous system and muscles. To keep these foods low in fat and calories, limit the use of spreads.
The information in this brochure was adapted from USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid, US Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Information Service, 1992.
What Counts as One Serving?
Here are some serving size examples for each food group. If you eat a larger portion, count it as more than one serving.
Most Americans are encouraged to eat at least the lowest number of servings from the five food groups each day.
Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta Group (6-11 servings)
1 slide of bread
· 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal (check labels: 1 ounce = 1/4 cup to 2 cups depending on cereal)
· 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta
· 1/2 hamburger roll, bagel, English muffin
· 3 or 4 plain crackers (small)
Vegetable Group (3-5 servings)
· 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
· 1/2 cup of other vegetables, cooked or chopped raw
· 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
Fruit Group (2-4)
· 1 medium apple, banana, orange, nectarine, peach
· 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
· 3/4 cup of fruit juice
Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese Group (2-3 servings)
· 1 cup of milk or yogurt
· 1.5 ounces of natural cheese
· 2 ounces of process cheese
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts Group (2-3 servings)
· 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
· (1 ounce of meat = 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, 1 egg or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter)
How Much Should I Eat?
1200 calories is the lowest amount recommended to maintain nutritional adequacy; this calorie level is conducive for weight loss, or extremely inactive individuals.
1600 calories is recommended for many sedentary women and some older adults.
2200 calories is recommended for most children, teenage girls, active women and sedentary men; women who are pregnant or breast feeding may need more.
2500 calories is recommended for teenage boys, active men, and some very active women.
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