Good nutrition is important for everyone. Healthful diets help children grow, develop, and do well in school. They enable people of all ages to work productively and feel their best. What people eat can also help reduce the risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, stroke, and osteoporosis, which are leading causes of death and disability among Americans. Finally, eating right can reduce the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood cholesterol, which increase the risk of disease.

Proper nutrition means getting both enough calories and the proper nutrients. Many people in this country eat more calories than the body needs. This can lead to obesity which is a risk factor for many diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It is important to remember that, although an overweight person may be getting more calories than needed, he or she may not be getting all of the necessary nutrients.

Eating a daily diet that includes adequate amounts of bread, cereal, grain, rice, pasta, vegetables, and fruit, and limits high fat foods, can promote health and reduce the risk of developing certain chronic diseases. You can help the people who use your pantry or meal program to be healthier by providing nutritious foods.

But what foods should you provide and in what quantity? Nutritional needs change throughout the life cycle. The number of calories and the amount of specific nutrients required will vary based on age, sex, reproductive status, activity level, and overall health of your clients. Moreover, the dietary preferences of the United States’ population varies widely based on cultural diversity, religious and regional differences, and personal preferences.