Choose My Plate Project
I learned a great deal about excesses and deficiencies in my diet by tracking my nutritional intake for three days. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is challenging while meeting school and other life demands, but I was surprised to see the results of my nutritional analysis.
I routinely consumed fewer than the recommended 2,000 of calories daily recommended by My Pyramid, averaging 1,540 calories per day. I was just barely under the recommended percentage of calories from carbohydrates, with 44% of my calories from carbohydrates rather than the recommended 45-65%. My diet was also very low in fiber, with only 15g out of the 25g recommended by My Pyramid. I was also over in fat, consuming 37% of my daily calories from fats as opposed to the recommended 20-35% of calories. The only vitamin or mineral that I had an excess of was sodium, which is unsurprising given that I do eat a moderate amount of processed “convenience” foods and they are known to contain a lot of salt. I was under the recommended daily intake of potassium (significantly), iron (slightly), vitamin C (slightly), vitamin D (significantly), and choline (significantly).
I am surprised that my carbohydrate intake was considered low by My Pyramid standards, as I eat a lot of grains and carbohydrates - I have an English muffin, cereal, pasta, or noodles of some sort at least once a day. I am unsurprised that my diet is lacking in fiber; while I eat a lot of carbohydrates, most of those are refined carbohydrates. Furthermore, I do not eat many vegetables and not quite enough fruit, which are great sources of fiber. In fact, I did not reach my goal for fresh fruit intake as dictated by My Pyramid (2 cups) on any of the three days I tracked my dietary intake, and met my recommended daily amount of vegetables (2.5 cups) on only one of the three days. My high fat intake was influenced by my daily consumption of dairy such as full-fat yogurt, peanut butter, and condiments like salad dressing. The excess sodium in my diet can be attributed to the fact that I eat a lot of convenience foods, such as Chinese take-out, frozen meals like lasagna, and boxed mixes such as macaroni and cheese. These convenience foods are notorious for containing high levels of sodium and should be consumed sparingly, rather than being a dietary staple, however, with so many demands on my time, sometimes they are the easiest option. My deficiency in potassium surprised me as I eat a banana almost every morning, and bananas contain potassium. My iron deficiency is due to the fact that I rarely eat red meat, and do not eat green leafy vegetables or beans on a regular basis. My deficiencies in vitamin D and choline are affected by the fact that I rarely eat fish, which contain both, and again, that I do not eat enough vegetables (choline is found in brussels sprouts and broccoli), and that I also do not consume eggs regularly, which are one of the most common sources of choline and vitamin D in the typical American diet.
Several dietary changes that I could incorporate to address these excesses and deficiencies would be to replace my convenience foods with simple and similar meals made with whole, less processed foods- for example, making pasta and steamed vegetables instead of boxed macaroni and cheese, or requesting that take-out foods be cooked without the salty or fatty sauces. I could improve my intake of potassium, iron, and fiber by incorporating 1 more cup of vegetables into my diet, especially green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, which would also improve my choline intake. I should also incorporate eggs into my diet, as they are great sources of both vitamin D and choline and can improve my intake of both with very little effort. I could also swap out full-fat dairy for non-fat dairy fortified with calcium and vitamin D, which would further increase my vitamin D intake while slightly decreasing my high fat intake. Given that I seem to eat fewer calories than recommended, there is a lot of room in my diet for an additional cup of vegetables, of fruits, and for two eggs per day, which would not only bring my caloric intake to the amount recommended by My Pyramid but also collectively address most of the deficiencies noted above.