Answer these questions to find out if you should consider taking a multivitamin.
On most days, do you:
-Eat six to 11 servings of grains (breads, cereal, rice, pasta and other grain foods)? One serving equals one slice of bread, 1/2 cup of rice or pasta, 1 ounce of cereal or half a bagel.
- Eat at least two servings of fruit? One serving equals 1 piece of fruit, 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked or canned fruit, or 3/4 cup of fruit juice.
-Eat at least three servings of vegetables? One serving equals 1/2 cup of cooked or chopped vegetables, 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables or 3/4 cup of vegetable juice.
- Generally eat the same foods every day?
- Eat two or more servings of dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt each day? One servings equals 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 11/2 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese.
- Eat two to three servings of lean meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs or nuts every day? One serving equals 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish. One egg, 1/2 cup of cooked beans or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter count as 1 ounce of meat.
- Frequently skip meals or miss out on one or more food groups for the entire day?
15 points or more: Food Guide Pyramid Expert. You know how to make wise food choices and get the variety of foods important for a healthy eating plan.
9 to 12 points: You're on your way. You could be getting more nutrients by fine-tuning your food selections. For example, if you fall short in the grains group, try including at least one more serving of grains daily.
0-6 points: Keep trying. By making small changes, you can gradually improve your eating pattern. Review the Food Guide Pyramid guidelines. Focus on one food group at a time and aim to eat the minimum number of servings for that group each day. And while food is the best way to obtain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, you may benefit from a multivitamin/mineral supplement if you are unable to eat from all the food groups.
Whether you are a Food Guide Pyramid expert or need to brush up on your nutrition "know-how," the more you learn about choosing a healthful eating plan, the easier it is to do. By selecting a variety of foods from each of the food groups in the Food Guide Pyramid, you can get the nutrients your body needs.
WHEN A SUPPLEMENT HELPS
Even people with the best intentions sometimes fall short on their nutrient intake. For some people, a vitamin/mineral supplement offers benefits that are both safe and effective. A vitamin/mineral supplement may help when:
-Your hectic lifestyle frequently keeps you from eating the recommended number of servings from the Food Guide Pyramid.
-You are on a very low-calorie, weight-loss diet.
-You are elderly and not eating as much as you should.
-You are a strict vegetarian.
-You can't drink milk or eat cheese and yogurt, or you are a woman of child-bearing age who doesn't get enough folate from fruits, vegetables, beans and grains.
A registered dietitian can help you evaluate your eating pattern and determine whether a vitamin/mineral supplement is right for you.
(c) 2004, Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.