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Healthy eating by the numbers

You probably grew up thinking that you should eat three square meals a day with foods from four food groups, but nutrition experts have increased both of those figures for better nutrition. Unsure if the other numbers in your diet match up with today’s healthy-eating requirements? Learn more here.

4 or 5 meals or snacks a day. Eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and one or two small snacks can help you maintain a healthy weight, or even lose weight. People who skip meals tend to overeat at the next meal because they’re famished.

1 teaspoon or less of table salt every day. Most Americans eat too much salt because it’s included in many prepared foods in surprisingly high amounts. Too much salt in your diet can lead to high blood pressure and other health problems.

8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day to stay properly hydrated. You may need more or less water, depending on how much you exercise, how hot it is outside and whether you have an underlying health condition. Being properly hydrated allows your body to take full advantage of the vitamins and minerals in your diet, regulates your body temperature and prevents constipation. Other fluids can hydrate you, but water does it without adding sugar, sodium or calories.

5 or more servings of fruits or veggies a day to prevent cancer, says the American Cancer Society. The latest government recommendations, however, vary depending on your age, gender and physical activity level. Visit to see just how much you should eat. Including more produce in your diet can help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol.

7% or fewer of your daily calories from saturated fats to lower cholesterol levels. Limiting saturated fats is the most important change you can make to lower your cholesterol, according to the National Institutes of Health.

24.9 (or lower) body-mass index (BMI). BMI compares your height to your weight to determine whether you weigh too much or too little. A healthy BMI is 18.5 to 24.9.

25 grams of fiber in your daily diet, for women ages 50 and younger. (Men 50 and under need 38 grams.) Ample fiber can lower your cholesterol, keep your blood-sugar levels in check, help you lose weight by making you feel fuller longer and keep your bowel movements regular.

20 to 35 percent of your daily calories from fats. Too much fat can contribute to heart disease, but too little may prevent your body from getting enough vitamin E or essential fatty acids. The best fat sources are fish, nuts and vegetable oils.

12 ounces of beer in your glass. The American Heart Association recommends that anyone who drinks alcohol should do so moderately. That means one glass a day (a 12-ounce beer) for women, two for men. Drinking more than that regularly could increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, stroke or breast cancer and raises your risk of obesity.

100 calories or fewer when you snack. If done properly, snacking can help you lose weight. A low-calorie snack can help curb your hunger between meals, preventing you from overeating at mealtime. Try 2 cups of carrots, 2 tablespoons of peanuts or 3½ cups of air-popped popcorn.

5 food groups to select from to create a well-balanced diet. They are: grains; vegetables; fruits; milk and dairy products; and meat, beans, fish and nuts. You should also include some fats and oils in your daily diet.