A family rides a bike together.

The Road to a Healthy Life

Based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

HHS LogoU.S. Department of Health and Human Services



This publication was produced by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in collaboration with the Office of Minority Health and Office on Women's Health.

The Road to a Healthy Life: Based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005 was developed under contract by Latino Health Communications, Ann Arbor, Michigan for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This brochure is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005.

These are the basic guidelines for eating a healthy diet and being physically active. For more information about the food groups and nutrition values, or to pick up some new ideas on physical activity, go to www.healthierus.gov.

This booklet, as well as Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005, 6th Edition, may be viewed and downloaded from the Internet at www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines.

To purchase printed copies of this booklet (Stock Number 017-001-00564-9), call the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) toll-free at (866) 512-1800, or access the GPO Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov.

To purchase printed copies of the complete 80-page Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005 (Stock Number 001-000-04719-1), call the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) at (866) 512-1800, or access the GPO Online Bookstore at http://bookstore.gpo.gov.

Table of Contents

Feel better today. Stay healthy for tomorrow.

"La buena vida" is a Latino expression that means "the good life." And the good life always includes health. This booklet helps guide you and your family toward the goal of enjoying la buena vida.

The food and physical activity choices you make affect your health –how you feel today, tomorrow, and in the future. With the Dietary Guidelines, you can:

  • Make healthier food choices more often.
  • Choose the most nutritious foods and beverages.
  • Be physically active on most days of the week.

How do you make healthier food choices?

Eat the right foods in the amounts your body needs to stay healthy and maintain a healthy weight. Enjoy foods that have plenty of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients while keeping calories in mind.

How do you stay physically active?

Move more. Walk, run, or play sports. Yard work and even dancing count, too! Enjoy moderate-intensity physical activity on most days. Physical activity and physical fitness are important to your health.

What are the keys to a healthy lifestyle?A boy is holding a brother baby.

It is never too late to start healthy habits: eating right and being physically active. Even small changes make a difference. You can reduce your risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain cancers, and increase your chances for la buena vida. Physical activity and eating healthfully are important to everyone, especially pregnant and lactating women, children, teenagers, and older adults –everyone in the family. The sooner you start on the road to a healthier lifestyle, the better the results will be for you, your family, and your community. This is your guidebook for the road to a healthy life.

Find more specific information at www.healtherus.gov/dietaryguidelines.

Eat a variety of Traditional foods - make healthier choices more often.

Fruits and vegetable soups are examples of traditional foods that add balance and variety to the table. Foods give your body energy for daily activities and keep you healthy. For many, being healthy means to be free of diseases of the mind and body and to have the energy for work and play. Enjoy a variety of foods and beverages in the amounts right for you. Be healthy –stay healthy for you and your family.

Can Latino cuisine be healthful?

Yes! Just use your favorite recipes and remember to:

  • Choose fat-free/skim or low-fat milk (1%).
  • Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and unsalted nuts.
  • Roast, bake, boil, steam, and grill foods instead of frying.
  • Cook foods in a limited amount of fats and oils.
  • Use less added sugar. See page 10 for more information.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

What are whole grains?

Whole grains, or foods made from them, have all the essential parts (bran, germ, and endosperm) and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. Grains include wheat, corn, and oats. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel, which is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. There are many benefits to increasing the use of whole grains in your diet. Eating whole grains may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease.

What are examples of whole grains and wholegrain foods?

  • Corn, including whole cornmeal and popcorn
  • Oats/oatmeal
  • Brown rice/wild rice
  • Whole-wheat flour, as in cereals and breads
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth

How can you eat healthfully at home and away from home?

Plan ahead — this can help you save money and time! Eating healthier becomes easier if you:

  • Make a food shopping list for the weekly family meals.
  • Include a variety of nutrient-rich foods such as sweet potatoes, green peppers, carrots, and papaya.
  • Buy cereals, breads, and tortillas made from whole wheat and whole grains–aim for at least 1/2 of all your grain choices to be from whole grains.
  • Prepare traditional dishes with lean meats, poultry, fish, and seafood.
  • Limit foods and beverages with added sugars, and drink more water.
  • Take small steps –change gradually from whole milk to fat-free milk and milk products.
  • Enjoy snacks such as mango, pineapple, and fresh tomato sprinkled with parsley.

Go back to your roots. Eat all types of healthful food each day!

Abuelita’s kitchen often had a variety of foods that you enjoyed. Follow her example and choose all types of healthful foods for your table.MyP

Is this important?

Yes! It is important to enjoy a variety of foods throughout the day and week to get the balanced nutrition you and your family need.

What else can I do to enjoy foods that are healthy for me?

Choose foods packed with nutrients from each food group each day –those with lots of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients but lower in calories. Remember: Portion size does matter.

How can I put this into practice?

Before going to el mercado, use the idea of a rainbow as your guide for planning meals. Let each color of the rainbow represent a different type of food group. Check your food shopping list to make sure you have included many "colors" for the meals you and your family will prepare.

grains Vegetables fruits milk fish
Grains (especially whole grains) Vegetables Fruits Fat-free milk and low-fat (1%)milk products Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds

TIP Think about the variety of colors in rainbow. Use this variety in preparing and servig your meals.

Learn more - visit www.mypyramid.gov.

Food groups

Breads Make half of your grains whole: Whole grains and foods made from whole grains include corn, oatmeal, whole-wheat cereals and crackers, quinoa, whole-grain breads, and baked whole-grain corn tortillas. Look to see that grains, such as wheat, rice, oats, or corn, are referred to as “whole” in the list of ingredients and that the whole-grain ingredient is one of the first listed.
vegetables Vary your vegetables: Eat more dark green vegetables such as spinach, kra, or broccoli, as well as more orange vegetables such as squash and pumpkin. Use your favorite salsa recipes or traditional legumes like black beans, chickpeas, and pinto beans to vary your vegetables. Enjoy beets, green beans, mixed vegetables, onions, and cabbage.
fruits Focus on fruits: Whether they're fresh, frozen, canned, or dried, you should at a variety of fruits – try papaya, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, dried apricots, grapefruit, banana, pear, orange, apple, or peach – instead of fruit juice for most of your fruit choices. Remember to limit added sugars.
cheese Get your calcium-rich foods: Choose low-fat (1%) or fat-free milk – or milk products such as low-fat yogurt and low-fat cheese every day. If you don’t consume milk, choose calcium-fortified foods (such as cereals) and beverages (such as soy beverages with added calcium) or try lactose-free milk products.
beans Choose lean meats and poultry: Vary your sources of protein with chicken, turkey, pork, and beef. Nuts, seeds, fish, and eggs can be healthy choices too. Prepare dishes with legumes and beans (without added fats) such as lentils, pinto beans, pigeon peas, garbanzos, peas, lima beans, and other dried beans.

Learn More!

Limit added sugars.

Since sugars add calories with few, if any nutrients, look for foods and beverages low in added sugars. Added sugars do not include naturally occurring sugars such as those found in milk and fruits. Read the ingredient lists on food and beverage packages and check to see that added sugars are not in the first few ingredients. Added sugars include: high fructose corn syrup, other syrups, sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose, brown sugar, honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrates, and raw sugar added to food and beverage products.

Learn about fats and oils.

Fats and oils are a major source of energy and help the body absorb some vitamins and other important nutrients. Most oils are important for proper growth, development, and maintenance of good health. However, it is wise to limit fat, especially saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, which may increase your risk of heart disease.

oil bottlesWhat fats and oils should I use?

Prepare foods with canola, olive, corn, safflower, or soybean oil. Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines(liquid, tub, or spray) more often instead of lard and solid shortenings, stick margarines, and animal fats, including butter.

Should I limit some types of fat?

Yes. Limit saturated fat, trans fat, and foods high in cholesterol.
  • Saturated fat is generally solid at room temperature – like butter, lard, stick margarine, shortening, and the fat found in cheeses and meats. Animal products and tropical vegetable oils like coconut, palm kernel, and palm oil contain saturated fat.
  • Trans fat can be found in foods such as cookies, pies, snack foods, some margarines, salad dressings, and vegetable shortenings. ?
  • Foods high in cholesterol include liver and other organ meats, egg yolks, and full-fat milk and milk products, such as whole milk and cheeses made from whole milk.

What else can I do?

Learn more about the Nutrition Facts label and compare foods; choose items with lower saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol. When preparing meals, trim visible fat from meats, limit fried foods, try egg whites and use low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products. Nuts, olives, avocados, and some types of fish are naturally high in beneficial fats and oils, but go easy on the total amount you eat.

Use the Nutrition Facts label.

The table of contents of your favorite magazine gives you information about what’s inside. Maps give you details about how to get to your destination. You can use the Nutrition Facts label printed on the outside of packaged foods as a guide to build a healthy diet. The place to start when you look at the Nutrition Facts label is the serving size.

  1. Check serving size.

    The serving size of a food or beverage is a standardized amount that lets you compare similar foods. Serving sizes are given in common household measures like cups, ounces, and grams. Now look at the line that describes the servings per container. How many servings are in the container on the sample Nutrition Facts label? You are right – the answer is two (2). Now, use it to compare a serving size to how much you actually eat.
  2. Look at calories.

    Look at the number of calories and the other nutritional information to make better choices. If you want to manage your weight (maintain, lose, or gain), this section is especially helpful. The total calories for the serving size are listed on the left side. The right side shows how many calories in one serving come from fat. In this example, one serving (1 cup) has 260 calories with 120 calories from fat. Note: The whole container has two servings (2 cups), which means 520 total calories with 240 calories from fat.TIP Check the calories: high-calorie foods are those that have 400 or more calories per serving.
  3. Limit these nutrients.

    Keep these low: saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Eating too much of these nutrients may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, some cancers, and high blood pressure.
  4. Get enough of these nutrients.

    Americans often don’t get enough dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and iron in their diets. Eating enough of these nutrients may improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions.

  5. Find the Percent Daily Value (% DV).

    These percentages are a reference. Percent Daily Value (% DV) can help you decide whether a food contributes a lot or a little of a particular nutrient. A lower percentage indicates the food contributes less of a nutrient, and a higher percentage indicates that it contributes more of the nutrient. In a single serving, 20% DV is considered "high" for a specific nutrient, while 5% DV or less is "low”.


Most sodium comes from processed foods, not from the saltshaker. Limit your salt use. Consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day – check the Nutrition Facts label.

Nutrition and Calories Count!

You may be eating plenty of calories from the foods you eat, but not eating the foods to give your body all the nutrients you need to be healthy.

Can you meet your daily nutrient needs and stay within the recommended calorie range?
Yes! Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups and use the Nutrition Facts label as your guide. This is how you’ll meet your daily nutrient needs. Be sure to pay attention to how much you eat and drink throughout the day. Find out more about your calorie needs on the next page.

How do you choose the most nutritious foods and beverages?
Choose foods and beverages that give you the best mix of nutrients per serving. Refer to the different sections of the Nutrition Facts label to limit some nutrients and get enough of others.

What’s the connection between food, physical activity, and weight?
If you are an adult, your "calories in" (total calories eaten) and "calories out" (calories burned to fuel your body and for physical activity) will make a difference if you need to maintain, lose, or gain weight. It’s really about balance. That’s the connection.

Middle Age WomanFor children, the connection is different because their bodies are growing. Parents and caretakers should provide children with age-appropriate portion sizes and encourage physical activity on most days, preferably all days of the week. If you have concerns about your child’s weight, contact your health care provider.

Does everyone need the same number of calories?

No. Growing children, adolescents, and adults have different needs. Your age, your gender, and the amount and type of physical activity you do matter as well.

REMEMBER How much you eat and how physically active you are affect your health and body weight!

How many calories do you need?

It depends. Let’s practice with Reinaldo. He is a 35-year-old male. He works in a machine shop. Reinaldo is not active enough. He falls into the “sedentary” activity level. It looks like he needs 2,200 calories per day. That is, if he continues to stay sedentary. Use the chart below to find out approximately how many calories you and your family members need each day. Calorie estimates are guidelines only – especially for children and adolescents. Many factors affect how your body uses calories.

1. Find your gender and age.

2. Select the activity level that matches yours. Read the definitions and examples below first.

3. Read across the chart to find your estimated calorie needs. That’s it.

Estimated Calorie Requirements
Activity Level a, b, c
Gender Age (years) Sedantary Moderately Active Active
Child 2-3 1,000 1,000-1,400 1,000-1,400
Female 4-8 1,200 1,400-1,600 1,400-1,800
9-13 1,600 1,600-2,000 1,800-2,200
14-18 1,800 2,000 2,400
19-30 2,000 2,000-2,200 2,400
31-50 1,800 2,000 2,200
51+ 1,600 1,800 2,000-2,200
Male 4-8 1,400 1,400-1,600 1,600-2,000
9-13 1,800 1,800-2,200 2,000-2,600
14-18 2,200 2,400-2,800 2,800
19-30 2,400 2,600-2,800 3,000
31-50 2,200 2,400-2,600 2,800-3,000
51+ 2,000 2,200-2,400 2,400-2.800

a Sedentary – Examples: walking at a casual pace such as while grocery shopping or doing light household chores. You do only light physical activity in connection with your everyday life. Although you are moving, these activities do not increase your heart rate, so you should not count these toward the 30 or more minutes a day goal.

b Moderately Active – Examples: walking briskly, dancing, mowing the lawn, bicycling, or actively playing with children. You are physically active Estimated Calorie Requirements Instructions: 1. Find your gender and age. 2. Select the activity level that matches yours. Read the definitions and examples below first. 3. Read across the chart to find your estimated calorie needs. That’s it.

beyond your everyday life activities. Your heart beats noticeably faster during physical activity. You are active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.

c Active – Examples: playing competitive soccer, jogging or running, swimming laps, jumping rope, or doing heavy yard work. During exercise, your breathing is hard and fast, and your heart rate is increased substantially within a safe heart range. You are physically active at least 30-60 minutes or more on most days of the week.

Move more

Physical activity is part of daily life in Latin America. In the U.S., some Latinos work in physically demanding jobs, others do not. There are health benefits to being physically active. Moderate-intensity activity helps you control your weight, feel great, and perhaps lower your chances of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes.

What is physical activity?
Why be physically fit? Physical activity is beneficial when it is of moderate or vigorous intensity: hand-washing your car, playing soccer with your kids, going for a swim with your spouse, or even riding a bike. You get physically fit by being active on a regular basis. Being fit is what allows you and your family to work and play in comfort.

Is physical activity for everyone?
Absolutely! Everyone in the family can be physically active. Find fun activities that easily fit into your regular family life. Start moving more: ?

  • Walk with your family.
  • Dance salsa, merengue, or cumbia.
  • Play soccer, basketball, baseball, or volleyball with your friends.

Physical activity: How much, how often, how intense?
Adults should engage in moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual activity, for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. For added benefits, increase your total activity time and the intensity of your workout. You may need up to 60 minutes per day to prevent unhealthy weight gain. If you have successfully lost weight, you may need up to 90 minutes per day to maintain your new weight. Children and teenagers need at least 60 minutes of activity on most days to feel good, grow well, and maintain a healthy weight.


Being physically active in several 10-minute sessions works just as well – the total daily number of minutes is what counts for both health and weight management. It is never too late to start no matter how young or old you are!


If you eat 100 calories a day more than you burn, you will gain about 1 pound a month– about 10 pounds in one year! If you want to lose weight it is important to reduce calories and increase physical activity. Use the Nutrition Facts label to make healthier choices and check out www.smallstep.gov for more ideas and tools.

Learn about food safety

Food safety is important in every kitchen. It is estimated that every year about 76 million people in the United States become ill from preventable food contamination. While some believe that cooking alone will solve the problem, often it is not enough. Most bacteria grow in the temperature range of 40° F to 140° F (4.44° C to 60° C) known as the danger zone. Learn how to prepare, handle, and store food the right way to keep you and your family safe.

Can food make you sick?
Yes. Contaminated foods not only waste money, but might make you and your family sick. All those who handle food have a responsibility to keep food as safe as possible. You can take simple precautions at home to reduce your family’s risk of foodborne illness.

What can I do to prevent this?


  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap.
  • Wash and sanitize all food work surfaces between uses.
  • Keep refrigerator surfaces clean.
  • Separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, and storing foods.
  • Use different utensils and cutting boards for raw meat, poultry, and seafood and another one for salads and other ready-to-eat foods.
  • Store raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a container or on a plate so juices can’t drip on other foods.


  • Use a food thermometer to cook to a safe internal food temperature. You can’t tell if food is cooked safely by how it looks.
  • Stir, rotate the dish, and cover food when microwaving to prevent cold spots where bacteria can survive.


  • Use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature of your refrigerator. Keep it at 40º F (4.44º C) or below.
  • Chill leftovers and takeout food within two hours and divide leftovers into shallow containers for faster cooling. Thaw meat, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

For more information, call the Meat and Poultry Hotline at (888) 674-6854

About alcohol

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Excess drinking can be harmful to your health. It can lead to the development of chronic diseases. And some people, or people in certain situations, should not drink at all. Alcohol has calories but is low in nutritional value. Drinking can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight.

What is moderate drinking?
Moderate drinking means no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks for men. Alcoholic content varies with different beverages. Think of 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 11/2 ounces of distilled spirits such as whiskey, rum, and tequila; each counts as one drink.

Who shouldn’t drink? You should not drink:

  • If you plan to drive, operate machinery, or take part in activities that require attention, skill, or coordination.
  • If you are under the age of 21.
  • If you are a woman of childbearing age who may become pregnant, is pregnant, or is lactating.
  • If you cannot control your drinking.
  • If you are taking medicine that may interact with alcohol.
  • If you have a specific medical condition and your doctor has told you not to drink.

Excess drinking can affect your judgment, lead to dependency or addiction, and increase your risk of other serious health problems.

If you have any questions or concerns, check with your doctor or other health-care provider.

The road to a healthy Hispanic community

This booklet guides you on the journey to better health. Now take the next step. If you are an adult, use the chart below to find out if you are at a healthy weight.


1. Find your height in the left-most column.

2. Read across the row from your height to find your weight in pounds.

3. Follow the column up and read if you are in the Healthy Weight, Overweight, or Obese category.

Why should you care about a healthy weight?|

Excess body fat can place you at higher risk for some types of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, gall bladder disease, respiratory problems, gout, osteoarthritis, and certain kinds of cancers...even premature death. Being at a healthy weight is important for children and adults.

What does Body Mass Index (BMI) mean?
BMI measures weight in relation to height. BMI is a number used to determine overweight and obesity in adults. It is important to know your Body Mass Index (BMI). Check with your healthcare provider for more information about healthy weights for growing children. Adults can use the chart below to find their Body Mass Index (BMI): Find your BMI number. Follow the column of your weight down to the bottom row ( in yellow).

BMI Chart

Source: Adapted from Evidence Report of Clinical Guidelines on the identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, 1996, NIH NAtional Heart Lung, and Blood institute (NHLBI)

For more information or concerns about your BMI,

If you are underweight:
Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is less than 19. You may need to gain weight.

If you are at a healthy weight:
Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is between 19 and 24. Keep up the good work. Stay physically active.

If you are overweight:
Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is between 25 and 29. Prevent further weight gain and consider losing weight. Modest weight loss (for example, 10 pounds) may have health benefits.

If you are obese:
Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is 30 and above. Prevent further weight gain and consider losing weight.
Talk to your doctor or health-care provider for more information.


  • BMI is not appropriate for pregnant or lactating women
  • Consult your health care provider about healthy growth for infants and children.
  • BMI may overestimate body fat for athletes and muscular individuals and underestimate body fat for older adults.

This booklet is your guide for the road to a healthy Hispanic community. Take control . . . it is important for you and your family, your future, and your health. ¡ Bienvenidos a la buena vida!