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Many people are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and meat. Some people are vegetarians, or people who don’t eat animal products. To get all the nutrients we need to keep our bodies healthy, we need to eat a balanced diet. We need to eat different types of food each day and certain amounts of each food.

The food we eat can be divided into groups. When we eat the right foods and we also exercise, we can be healthy. The food groups are:

• Whole Grain Foods (at most meals): The body needs carbohydrates for energy. It’s best to eat the carbs that come from whole grains like oatmeal, whole wheat and brown rice. Those give the most energy, the most fiber (which is good for you) and the least sugar of all carbohydrates. Eat these at most meals.

• Fats/Plant Oils: Some fats and oils are healthy. Those oils are olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut, and other vegetable oils, as well as fatty fish oils like the one in salmon.

• Vegetables and Fruits (2 to 3 times per day): Eat lots of vegetables. They’re great! Fruits are also good, eat some of them, but don’t drink too much fruit juice because it has a lot of sugar.

• Fish, Poultry, and Eggs (0 to 2 times per day): They’re important because they give you the protein you need.

• Nuts and Legumes, like beans (1 to 3 times per day): These give you protein and fiber.

• Dairy or Calcium (1 to 2 times per day from low-fat food or from a supplement): These help you build strong bones.

• Red Meat and Butter (just a little bit): These give you protein but they also have lots of the kind of fat which isn’t so good for you. Eat only a little bit of this group.

• White Rice, White Bread, Potatoes, Pasta, and Sweets (only a little bit) : This group may taste good but it’s not good for you. They give you lots of sugar and not very many good vitamins or minerals. Eat only a little bit.

Too much fat can increase our risk of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular means related to the heart and blood vessels. Too much fat can also make us overweight.
Foods that come from animals – meat, milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, etc. – usually contain some fat. Some foods like cookies, muffins, donuts, pies and cakes even have fats added. Sugar has no nutrients, leads to tooth decay and has lots of calories. If we eat too much sugar, we’d be too full to eat the foods our bodies really need to grow healthy and strong. Foods with added sugar include ice cream, candy, and soft drinks. We can read labels to see how much fat and sugar have been added. So, if we want to be healthy and strong, it’s best to go easy on the fats, oils and sweets.

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