What if you're one of those rare Americans: You have to work hard to pack in enough calories to maintain your weight and energy level. Maybe you're a backpacker, or a very large football player. Or you might have a job where you work hard, physically, all day long lifting, carrying or shoveling. Then again, you might just be one of those folks who has a hard time eating enough to keep your weight up.
Even though you're not fat, you're still susceptible to high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and various forms of cancer. That means good food choices are important to your health.
If you require 3,000 calories or more each day, you, too should follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, but with a shift in emphasis.
* Eat a little more low-fat, high protein foods.
The guidelines suggest 6 ounces of lean meat, chicken or fish daily. You can healthfully eat twice that, if the emphasis is on lean.
* Focus on dense fruit.
All fruits are not created equal. A whole cup of strawberries provides only 45 calories. One-third cup of raisins provides 150 calories. Ten cherries provide 50 calories, 10 dates 228. You can also enjoy sugar sweetened canned fruit. Drink fruit juice instead of diet soft drinks.
* Eat high-starch veggies.
Dieters delight in massive salads and low-cal veggies like BTC spinach and green beans. Some dark green leaf vegetables are an important source of vitamin C and beta carotene for you, but don't overdo the salads. They take up a lot of space and make you feel full, while providing few calories. Focus instead on starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, peas, lima beans, baked beans and corn.
* Eat plenty of grains.
Pile your plate with pasta, noodles and rice. Thicken soups and stews with barley, oats and rice. Eat dense breakfast cereals made from wheat, oats and rice. Make sandwiches with three slices of bread. Eat big bagels or two English muffins for breakfast.
* Eat a little more fat.
The guideline for everyone is 30 percent or less of calories from fat. That translates into 33 grams of fat per 1,000 calories. If you eat 4,000 calories a day, you can have 4-times-132 grams of fat a day. Increase heart-healthy fats by eating more peanut butter (7 grams fat per tablespoon), nuts (10 to 20 grams fat per ounce), and seeds (13 grams fat per ounce). Add polyunsaturated margarine (12 grams fat per tablespoon) to vegetables, rice, noodles and bread. Add vegetable and olive oil (14 grams fat per tablespoon) to salads and other dishes.
* Enjoy some sweets.
If you're eating mostly nutritious foods, you can afford to add sugar to foods, and to enjoy muffins, cookies and other sweet treats that the rest of the world has to ration carefully.
Relax and enjoy! Most of us really envy you.
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and director of Eating Together in Baltimore