Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating

Your total diet is the combination of all of the beverages and foods that you eat.

In this month’s Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the academy published a position paper endorsing a total diet approach to healthy eating. ┬áThe position states that “the total diet or overall pattern of food eaten is the most important focus of healthy eating”. And goes on to say that “all foods can fit within this pattern if consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with physical activity”.

The government dietary patterns illustrated by the MyPlate food groups are one example of a total diet approach to healthy eating that the academy endorses.

By not labeling foods as “good foods” and “bad foods”, healthy eating can include favorite foods that may not be particularly healthy in themselves. For example, a diet can be healthy and still include a bag of chips or candy bar. This is the idea behind the “Empty Calories” group in the MyPlate food groups. Most calorie levels in the government dietary patterns include an allotment of empty calories, to make the diets feel less restrictive and hopefully easier to follow.