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The Total Diet Approach


All week you have been eating healthy, but now you find yourself eyeing chocolate chip cookies in the dining hall. Faced with this dilemma, you may think it is out of the question to indulge in a cookie or other dessert foods. Luckily, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, all foods consumed in moderation fit into a balanced diet. This concept is known as the
Total Diet Approach.

Your total diet is composed of all foods and beverages consumed over time. The approach tells us to think of our diet as a whole. We often label a food as “good” or “bad” but all foods can be incorporated into a healthy diet. The key to staying healthy is to exercise and eat well balanced meals. No single food will destroy a week’s worth of healthy eating just as a single meal won’t guarantee you good health. If you follow a healthy diet most of the time, you can enjoy calorie
dense foods every now and then, in a controlled portion, also known as discretionary calories. If you want a slice of pizza, eat it, just don’t go overboard and have the whole pie.

Here are some examples of how discretionary calories can be used to help enhance the flavor of foods in the dining halls:

  • Try adding a little ranch dressing to improve the bitter flavors of raw veggies.
  • Croutons on a salad can be a great savory, salty addition.
  • Sweeten up bland water with a splash of lemonade.
  • If you’re not used to whole grain pasta, sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese.
  • Pump up the flavor of a plain celery stalk by spreading on peanut butter.
  • When plain fruit gets boring, try dipping bananas or strawberries in Nutella
  • Topping ordinary nonfat yogurt with honey, jelly or granola can make it more palatable.

How Will You Approach Your Diet?

Author: Taylor Palm                   Reviewed by: Professor Tangel, Department of Nutritional Sciences
References: Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating. Available at: Accessed on: August 24, 2013.

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