views updated May 21 2018



Derived from the Greek word, diaita, that refers to a way of life, or daily regimen, by the twenty-first century, the word diet had brought with it from ancient times, various connotations. Whether describing the daily eating pattern of any given individual, or the eating habits of an entire culture—even the term used to indicate a weight-loss regimen—diet has served to identify the substance and sometimes source of food on a regular, or daily basis for humans.


Whether an individual is following a plan to lose or gain weight, an eating plan specific to a certain disease such as diabetes, abiding by cultural customs, or maintaining personal eating habits followed for years, the mention of the word diet conjures up every kind of food and supplement imaginable, and every manner of lifestyle. As the United States began to grow in the nineteenth century and especially when people started crowding into cities, and were no longer self-sustaining with their own crops and animals, food and daily diet became more than a means to simple survival. For those leaving farms by the end of the century and entering into America's manufacturing work force, exercise and eating patterns changed to meet the rigors of factory work, coal mines, and other venues through which people began to earn their living.

The history of concern for food products and safety and how it affected the American diet officially began in 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln established the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). President Lincoln also appointed a chemist, Charles M. Wetherill to lead the Bureau of Chemistry (BOC), which, according to the 2008 USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) website, was the “true predecessor” of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Food safety—or, the lack of it—was given significant publicity by author Upton Sinclair, a journalist, whose book, The Jungle, published in 1905, focused his attention on the meat packing industry in Chicago. His descriptions of the extremely unsanitary conditions, the exploitation of workers, and the threat these factors posed to the health safety of Americans, led President Theodore Roosevelt to legislative action. The 1906 Food and Drug Act, and the 1906 Meat Inspection Act were enacted to create a government inspection program not only in the meat industry, but also throughout the food industry. The task of enacting these laws fell to the BOC. In 1927 the BOC was reorganized and emerged as the Food, Drug, and Insecticide Administration. It was during President Eisenhower's administration in 1953 that significant changes occurred with the USDA. The functions of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) established in 1884, and the Bureau of Dairy Industry were merged into a new agency, the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), and those former agencies were abolished. Government cared not only for its economic impact, but also the impact of healthy and safe food on the lives of average Americans.

The first major breakthrough in assisting Americans in understanding what was in the food they were eating came in 1966 under the administration of President Lyndon Johnson. That year Johnson signed into law the first food labeling program. It required that all ingredients of any processed food be listed right on the label—whether it was a can, box, bag, or other container. In 1994 nutrition labeling was further upgraded to include the nutrition value of a food, and a breakdown of such components as calories per serving, fats, sugars, carbohydrates , and vitamins and minerals. By early in the twenty-first century, with millions of people conscious of the hazards of food additives, the FDA extended regulations to include the terms such as organic and certified organic. By 2008, resources became readily available to provide information to people on special diets—including information such as what food or drinks might not be a good mix with certain food or liquids while taking a certain medication. In addition to that, an individual will find reliable sources regarding what diseases or conditions might require certain nutrients or supplements; or what to avoid if weight loss , or gain were to become an issue.

According to the American Dietetic Association, (ADA) established by registered dieticians in 1917, hundreds, perhaps thousands of different diet plans exist. The ADA thus provides guidance through professional members of the association, through information on its website, in addition to an individual's personal physician or other health professional. The ADA also provides book recommendations regarding what diet plans might be legitimate to follow, and what might instead be a better daily eating plan. It is always advisable to follow a physician's or dietician's guideline to conform with individual needs, especially as people age.


Senior adults have dietary needs that vary from the recommendations often made for younger people—even senior adults who are healthy and free of major illnesses. In 2007 the USDA updated its food pyramid, already established and known as MyPyramid—a profile of the foods, amounts of food, and daily requirements that would constitute a healthy diet plan for any individual person. The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy of Tufts University, updated its own food pyramid for older adults, particularly those over the age of 70. The plan was first presented in December of 2007, and published in January 2008. Because seniors have “unique dietary needs,” according to one of the pyramid's authors, Dr. Alice H. Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts (USDA HNRCA) unique guidelines were necessary. The altered MyPyramid itself includes visual clues to seniors that would be helpful in suggesting actual foods and the forms those foods might take—emphasizing fruits, vegetables, breads and pasta, and meat and dairy products in their purest and most natural forms, even as canned or frozen, that provide optimal nutrition benefits but are also easy for an older adult to eat or use.

The adjusted food pyramid suggestions include daily suggestions of, from bottom to top, eight servings of water; six servings for fortified cereal, whole—grain breads, rice or pasta; three servings from the vegetable group; two servings from the fruit group; three servings from the milk, yogurt, and cheese group; two servings from the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and nut group; and limited use of fats, oils, and sweets, along with possible calcium , Vitamin D , and B12 supplements. Even these guidelines should be discussed with a personal physician or other health professional and a dietician in order to determine a person's individual needs, especially regarding the use of supplements.

One of the factors for guidelines different from those for the general population includes the fact that senior adults tend to require fewer calories due to a decrease in physical activity resulting in metabolic rates slowing. Obesity in older adults would be an increased risk factor in certain diseases such as diabetes and heart health issues. The importance of enough water intake every day focuses on what can be an issue as people age—sometimes a person might require more hydration, such as in the summer heat, but might not have the thirst associated with the need. If this happens, an individual might not realize that a problem might occur. Water is not the only source of fluid intake—other foods and beverages with high water content can also contribute to necessary hydration. Vegetables such as lettuce, foods such as soups and juice, and even gelatin desserts can contribute to necessary fluid intake.


Maintaining a healthy diet is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system especially as people age and develop age-related diseases. Even such diseases as diabetes, other autoimmune disorders , and heart health issues can be more problematic in an aging bodily system. Food is the body's source of fuel. The purer the fuel in any machine, the better it operates. That is also true of the human body. Definitive research might not by 2008 have yet fully have indicted processed foods and the role they could play in the onset of certain cancers. Medical and nutritional research has long indicated that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, provided there is no contraindication with prescribed, necessary medicine, or a diet heavy with sugars or trans fats, constitutes calories that are not sufficient to maintain energy levels, but instead provide empty calories, that lead to weight gain, and extend other health problems.

The Nutrition Screening Initiative (NSI), along with the ADA, and the American Academy of Family Physicians presented findings in 2002 published as A Physician's Guide to Nutrition in Chronic Disease Management for Older Adults. The effort was a result of several medical professionals and organizations with a focus on how nutrition in seniors affects, and is affected by cancer , chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , congestive heart failure , coronary artery disease, dementia, diabetes mellitus , hypertension , and osteoporosis . Designed for the physician, a senior adult patient and caregiver would benefit as well from the guidelines, observations, and recommendations that are pertinent to the specific needs of older adults. The necessity of maintaining a healthy diet for every day living is important for optimal health and prevention of complications due to malnutrition over a long period of time. The diet plan that addresses major illnesses however could be the more immediate difference between life and death .


Many factors will influence how a senior adult eats. One crucial factor is decreased appetite levels due to medication, and a decrease in physical activity. These represent only two of the major challenges for the senior adult. Physical disabilities, or diminished physical capacity due to such illnesses as arthritis, osteoporosis, vision, or heart problems, can also create difficulty in shopping for, and preparing food. Under such circumstances, simply the act of opening a can, or standing at a stove might prove prohibitive when attempting to prepare dinner. Age can also influence appetite as senses of taste and smell change making food less appealing, along with certain medications that can affect test or smell and make a person less hungry. Depression that might emerge due to illness, the loss of a spouse, or medication, will also in some instances affect eating patterns—often either skipping meals, or eating sweets or other unhealthy food. While severe weight loss can be an indicator of malnutrition, so can obesity—and both can be indicators of depression and an unhealthy diet. If a person is used to a higher income level before retirement, sometimes knowing how to shop for healthy but less expensive food can also pose problems in maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet. As people age, ethnic foods that might have been the staple of their lives might be more difficult to digest, or pose health risks. Having food prepared that is familiar but with alterations of ingredients is possible if a dietician is consulted. Substitutes are often tested in recipes that might originally have included food items that a person can no longer eat. A 2008 online article, Eating Well As We Age, provided a concise list of concerns. They include:


  • Do I need nutritional supplements?
  • Is it harmful for me to drink alcohol while trying to maintain a healthy diet?
  • can't chew
  • upset stomach (when eating or drinking certain foods or liquids)
  • can't cook
  • no appetite
  • short on money

For each of these problems there is a solution—but the individual and caregiver or family must make an effort to find a way to provide healthy, appealing food that is easy to prepare, eat, affordable, and appealing.


Maintaining a healthy diet can be challenging—not maintaining a healthy diet can be life threatening, especially in senior adults who might have other health issues such as diabetes, cancer, heart health issues, or vision problems. A poor diet can bring a greater risk of disease—whether chronic, infectious diseases such as the flu or pneumonia , emotional ailments, and memory loss leading to dementia. A proper diet is not a miraculous cure for any disease in and of itself. It is a crucial tool, in addition to proper medication, physical activity, appropriate sleep, and satisfying social contact, to enhancing health.


Dietary supplements —Any vitamin, mineral, herb, or other substance presented as an ingestible liquid, pill, powder, or capsule used to supply necessary nutrients to a diet in addition to a regular healthy eating plan.

DRIs —The abbreviation for Daily Reference Intakes established in 1996 to replace the former term, Recommended Daily Allowances, or RDAs.

An especially critical issue with proper nutrition can occur in senior adults following surgery, or in those recovering from broken bones such as occurs in hip fractures. With any broken bones, or wounds, the body channels food nutrients to the part of the body that requires healing. It is a simple body defense system. Inadequate nutrition at such a time can inhibit healing and compromise the rest of the body, as well. Sufficient amounts of protein during this healing stage are essential to strengthening bones and overall health.

In some cases of early Alzheimer's disease , often before it is fully diagnosed, an individual might not be capable of self-maintenance. Such individuals might put on extra weight by eating too much—sometimes a person might eat a complete meal, and not long afterwards, completely forget and want to eat again. In other instances, senior adults with this and other forms of dementia require monitoring by family or caregivers in order that a balanced diet is maintained to ensure optimal health.


Proper and satisfying nutrition is an important key to maintaining proper health. It will support the body's immune system and thus better combat infections, flu viruses , pneumonia, and other communicable diseases. In individuals faced with the challenge of such ailments as cancer, kidney disease, heart disease , or autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, arthritis, or even HIV, proper nutrients in the form of a healthy diet can be both life-enhancing and life-sustaining.

Foods posing safety issues

  • nonpasteurized dairy products
  • raw sprouts
  • meat, shellfish, or eggs not fully cooked
  • certain deli meats



Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. New York: Penguin Press. 2008.


“Protein and Older Adults.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 23, (2004): 627S–630S


“Determine Your Nutritional Health.”

Dietary Reference Intakes for Older Adults.”

“Eating Well As We Age.”


“Food Safety and Inspection Service.”

“Good Nutrition: It's a Way of Life.”

“Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults.”

“Nutrient Data Laboratory: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions.”

“Nutrition for Seniors.”

“Nutrition Fact Sheet: Popular Diets Reviewed 2007.”

“A Physician's Guide to Nutrition in Chronic Disease Management for older adults.”

“Young At Heart, Healthy Eating & Physical Activity Across Your Lifespan.”


American Dietetic Association, 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, IL, 60606–6995, 800–877–1600,

Jane Elizabeth Spear


views updated Jun 08 2018


In its technical sense, a diet is a food schedule that represents a disciplined pattern of consumption. Diets are created or designed to achieve a particular state of health, including larger or smaller body mass, higher or lower levels of intake of particular food types, or to regulate the intake of accompanying vitamins, minerals, or other supplements to improve physical performance.

Diet has both broader and deeper meanings in its use by both the general population and athletes alike. The expression "you are what you eat" is one with which everyone can identify. Technical aspects aside, a diet is both the checklist as well as the yardstick to determine how the body's essential systems perform on the fuels provided.

The quantity of a diet and its quality are measured in different ways. Quantity is determined by the number of calories contained in the total foods consumed. In physics, a calorie is defined as the unit of measurement that represents the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1°C; for dietary calculations, a calorie is 1 kilocalorie, or 1,000 calories. The dietary calorie is best understood with reference to what it represents. The most familiar comparison to quantify the dietary caloric measure is that 1 lb (2.2 kg) of excess fat on the human body represents 3,500 calories of either food intake or required energy expenditure. All foods are capable of being measured by their caloric value, because all foods will be converted by digestion into a form of energy, whether the substance enters the body as a carbohydrate, a protein, or a fat. When a diet is set out in writing, it will refer to both the size of the food product to be consumed, as well as its corresponding caloric value. The greater or smaller the portion of the food consumed will determine the proportionate calculation of the number of calories in the particular diet.

The number of calories represented by the diet is of importance is determining whether the amount of energy available through the diet will sustain an athlete through the workouts and competitions. If a body has too little fuel available through food consumption, it will either resort to converting fat or protein stores into energy, which are not efficient processes, or the body will simply not be able to perform as intended.

When the calories represent the quantity of the fuel available to the body, the components of the diet will represent the fuel quality: all calories, for the purpose of optimum human health and athletic performance, are not of equal value. All diets are composed of three general types of foods: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The proportion of each of these components in a diet is critical in the achievement of general health, as well as the specific desired benefits to enable an athlete to perform in a particular discipline that itself places specific demands on the body.

Carbohydrates are broadly understood as the fuel used to power the body, both in its muscular movements as well as its nervous system, cardiovascular system, and organ function. Carbohydrates are the compounds found in many forms of plant life that are a byproduct of photosynthesis, the reaction between sunlight and the plant structure. Carbohydrates are generically classed as sugars, and they are typically divided into three subcategories: simple sugars, or monosaccharides, of which glucose is an example, so called because they possess a simple carbon/hydrogen/oxygen structure; double sugars, or disaccharides, such as sucrose; and complex sugars, also referred to as starch, known as polysaccharides, which are stored in the body for future energy uses as glycogen in both the liver and the skeletal muscles. Glycogen, reduced to glucose, is the product used by the body to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the ultimate fuel product converted to muscular energy.

The most prevalent sources of carbohydrates typically found in the human diet are those derived from plant sources in their natural or harvested state, such as potatoes, grains, fruits, and vegetables, as well as those plant sources that are processed or refined into food products, such as bread, pastas, and all sugar products. In the typical diet of a healthy adult person, carbohydrates will form approximately 60-65% of the daily total caloric intake.

Proteins are nitrogen-based molecules that are closely related to the body-building compounds known as amino acids. Proteins are essential to the building, maintenance, and repair of all muscles in the body. While protein can be utilized as a source of energy, it is inferior to both carbohydrate and fat supplies in this regard. Proteins are found in a number of food sources, the best known of which are animal meats, soy beans, and its derivatives, and dairy products. The body generally requires 12-15% of its diet as proteins.

Fats are the third component of the diet structure. The term fat has a highly negative connotation in popular culture, as dietary fats are equated with the excess fatty tissue acquired in the human body when the output of calories, through exercise, is less than the caloric value of the foods consumed. The fats consumed for the purposes of diet are defined as organic compounds that are constructed in various combinations of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen molecules. Fats are a highly concentrated and inefficient source of bodily energy that are present in numerous foods, and are subdivided into two types. Saturated fats are those that are consumed primarily through animal meats, and excess consumption of animal fats in diet will often lead to a corresponding excess of cholesterol present in the body. Cholesterol is a type of fat known as low density lipoproteins (LDLs), which in excess amounts are a known inhibitor of good cardiovascular function. Unsaturated fats are found predominately in plants and fish products. Unsaturated fats contain high density lipoproteins (HDLs), which are a key to healthy cardiovascular function.

The body extracts, or otherwise converts, some available fats into fatty acids, which play a vital role in the ability of the body to absorb and metabolize certain fat-soluble vitamins such as A and E, which are essential to healthy human function. The best known of these "healthy fats" is omega-3, which is found in salmon and tuna oils. Another form of fatty acid, trans fatty acid, or trans fat, is commonly found in fried foods made with vegetable oils and commercially prepared baked goods; trans fat has a negative effect on the cardiovascular system as it is believed to contribute to the clogging of arteries. A healthy diet, which is often referred to as a balanced diet, will not usually exceed 30% fat.

In addition to an appropriate caloric value, suitable to the energy required by a person, and a balanced diet, certain food agents are desirable additions to assist with the digestion and the processing of the food consumed. Fiber (also known as roughage) is the term used to describe the food component that is desired not for its caloric or other nutritional value, but as a digestive aid. It cannot be processed for energy by the body, and fiber therefore does not have a caloric value. Foods such as apples, beans, and corn and other plants possess high amounts of soluble fiber, which assist slowing the digestive process and permitting nutrients to be better absorbed; insoluble fibers, present in foods such wheat and oat bran, make the elimination of solid wastes from the body easier by adding bulk to the waste products.

Another essential aspect of diet that is not related to the caloric value of the food are the dietary vitamins and minerals consumed through food. As with fiber, vitamins and minerals are not a part of the energy sources, as the body does not convert them in the fashion that carbohydrates are converted. Vitamins and minerals are commonly regarded as an interchangeable nutritional package; they are separately defined components of diet, that often work together to enhance health.

Vitamins are a group of substances that are of critical importance to the body's metabolism (the creation and processing of stored energy); vitamins are also an integral part of the growth and maintenance of the musculoskeletal system, as well as the prevention of disease. There are 13 vitamins that are essential to optimal human function, each referenced by a letter: vitamin A, the vitamin B complex (a grouping of eight separate but related compounds), and vitamins C, D, E, and K. All vitamins, with the exception of D and K, are obtained through diet; vitamins D and K are the products of synthesis within the body, a process that indirectly requires proper nutrition to occur. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, which require free fatty acids to facilitate storage and which will be absorbed into the body systems to function as required. The remainder of the necessary vitamins is water soluble, permitting absorption directly into the bloodstream through the digestive process and the working of the small intestine. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored within the body and each must be consumed on a daily basis.

Minerals are inorganic substances found naturally in the earth; the name is derived from the ability to mine the substances underground. Minerals entering the body through foods are in some instances elements in their pure form as found in the periodic table; other minerals are elements in compound form. The most common example is table salt, or sodium chloride; sodium is the mineral required for the proper function of a number of the body's systems.

There are many minerals required to achieve optimum human function. The most important minerals are calcium (also, the most plentiful mineral in the body, essential to bones, teeth, the transmission of nerve impulses, and muscle function), sodium (which assists in the regulation of blood volume and related blood pressure), and potassium (known as an electrolyte, critical to athletic performance and essential to general body development and growth). An example of the chemical partnerships formed in the maintenance of the body is the relationship between vitamin D and calcium, which are interdependent in the formation of bones.

Mineral stores can become quickly depleted through the stresses placed upon the human systems through exercise. A reduction in mineral levels cannot be compensated by way of assistance from internal body processes. Mineral shortages can be addressed to a significant degree with the consumption of energy drinks during competition, and by way of supplements consumed as a regular part of diet.

While the approximately 60% carbohydrate to 15% protein to 25% fat dietary ratio, together with optimum fiber, vitamin, and mineral consumption, will support a typical healthy adult, there are a multitude of dietary variations used to achieve specific athletic purposes. The low carbohydrate diets advanced for weight loss purposes and often popularized in the media are usually an unsuitable dietary basis for serious athletic training programs. Carbohydrates are the prime food source for the ultimate production of muscular energy; if the ratio of carbohydrates were significantly reduced in an athlete's diet, the body would be required to seek energy production from either proteins or fats. Neither of these groups is as efficient in the production of ATP as is carbohydrate-derived glucose.

In the specialized circumstances of elite performance, diet components can be strictly analyzed and adjusted for optimal athletic benefit. As an example, a weight training program aimed at building a greater degree of muscle mass might result in an adjustment of the amount of protein consumed. Given the body of each individual athlete may pose variations from the expected dietary requirements, two athletes on the same training program may have slightly different patterns of food consumption.

Dietary supplements are commonly consumed by athletes to ensure that the proper daily nutritional requirements are met. Numerous investigations into the relative ability of the body to absorb vitamins and minerals from food versus pill or powdered supplements suggest that these nutrients are best ingested from food; for water-soluble nutrients, it is very difficult to ingest sufficient amounts in any fashion that poses a danger of overload, as the excess amount is passed out of the system. There is a risk presented from the over-consumption of fat-soluble nutrients: excess consumption of vitamin D may lead to the formation of calcium-composed kidney stones.

see also Carbohydrates; Fat intake; Protein supplements; Sport nutrition.


views updated May 29 2018


The correct obtaining, preparation, and consumption of food have been always been important to the saṄgha. The Buddha's own religious career prior to his enlightenment, when at one point he subsisted on a single grain of rice per day, showed that liberation is not possible through extreme fasting. But equally to be avoided is attachment to the sensual pleasure of eating. Thus, food should be seen as necessary to sustain the body but as fundamentally repulsive, somewhat like unpleasant-tasting medicine. There are meditations that focus on the repulsiveness of food, and food obtained on the begging round is often deliberately mixed together to form an unappetizing paste.

The saṅgha was intended to be dependent on the laity for its food, and the vinaya stresses that monks and nuns were to eat only what was given. They were not to produce their own food, nor even to consume food that they found. The daily begging round ensured that the saṅgha was always made aware of its responsibilities to lay donors, as well as offering ample opportunities for laypeople to make merit from dĀna (giving).

The vinaya and later East Asian monastic regulations also have numerous rules about how food is to be consumed in the monastery. According to the vinaya, monks and nuns should not eat solid food after noon, although in East Asia monks do take supplementary meals.

Despite the first precept against killing, a keen awareness of compassion toward animals and insects, and the consistent denigration of occupations such as butcher, hunter, or fisherman, a vegetarian diet was not required of the early saṅgha in India. In southern Asia and Tibet, meat given to monks is permitted, unless the animal was killed specifically for them. Mahāyāna sūtras such as the nirvĀṄa sŪtra and the LaṄkĀvatĀra-sŪtra spoke out strongly against meat eating. These texts, in combination with the precepts of the apocryphal Fanwang jing (BrahmĀ's Net SŪtra), decisively affected the monastic diet in China and Korea. Monks and nuns in those countries are strictly vegetarian. In Japan monks are extremely unlikely to be vegetarian, although there is still a tradition of Buddhist vegetarian cuisine based on Chinese recipes. In addition to meat, Chinese and Korean Buddhists also avoid the "five pungent herbs" (garlic, onions, ginger, Chinese chives, and leeks), which are thought to overstimulate the emotions and interfere with meditation.

In Chinese and Korean monasteries, everyday meals consist mostly of rice and vegetables. On festive days glutinous rice or noodles may be served in place of white rice, and the monks may receive other treats of cakes or candies. Vegetarian feasts sponsored by lay donors also feature more variety of dishes. In Japan certain temples have become associated with special types of food served on festive days. At Sanpōji in Kyoto, for example, once a year daikon (white radishes) are boiled in large vats and given to parishioners. It is said that they prevent paralysis. Steamed

rice with citrus peel, a favorite dish of Nichiren (1222–1282), is also served.

See also:Ascetic Practices; Merit and Merit-Making


Buswell, Robert E. The Zen Monastic Experience: Buddhist Practice in Contemporary Korea. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Chapple, Christopher Key. Nonviolence to Animals, Earth, and Self in Asian Traditions. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.

Mather, Richard. "The Bonze's Begging Bowl: Eating Practices in Buddhist Monasteries in Medieval India and China." Journal of the American Oriental Society 101, no. 4 (1981): 417–424.

Ruegg, David Seyfort. "Ahimsa and Vegetarianism in the History of Buddhism." In Buddhist Studies in Honour of Walpola Rahula. London: Gordon Fraser, 1980.

Welch, Holmes. The Practice of Chinese Buddhism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967.

James A. Benn


views updated May 17 2018

di·et1 / ˈdī-it/ • n. the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats: a vegetarian diet | a specialist in diet. ∎  a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons: I'm going on a diet. ∎  [as adj.] (of food or drink) with reduced fat or sugar content: diet soft drinks. ∎ fig. a regular occupation or series of activities in which one participates: a healthy diet of classical music.• v. (di·et·ed, di·et·ing) [intr.] restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight: it's difficult to diet.DERIVATIVES: di·et·er n.di·et2 • n. a legislative assembly in certain countries. ∎ hist. a regular meeting of the states of a confederation. ∎  Scots Law a meeting or session of a court.


views updated May 09 2018


The term diet refers to a person's pattern of eating and drinking. Diet is influenced by many factors, including income, culture, religion, geographic location, and lifestyle. A balanced diet contains food from several food groups and supplies the body with the energy and essential nutrients it needs (as defined by the Food Guide Pyramid and Dietary Reference Intakes ).

The Food Guide Pyramid lists food categories and serving recommendations. Dietary Reference Intake values provide a range of dietary recommendations, including the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), which provide the daily intake needed to meet the needs of "nearly all healthy persons." Dietary recommendations, and how they are represented, vary around the world. Most, however, convey a common message: balance, variety, and moderation in food choices.

see also Eating Habits; Dietary Reference Intakes; Food Guide Pyramid; Recommended Dietary Allowances.

Delores Truesdell


Brown, Judith (2002). Nutrition through the Life Cycle. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Internet Resource

United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Center. "Food Guide Pyramid." Available from <>


views updated May 18 2018

diet Range of food and drink consumed by an animal. The human diet falls into five main groups of necessary nutrients: protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamin, and mineral. An adult's daily requirement is about one gram of protein for each kilogram of body weight. Beans, fish, eggs, milk, and meat are important protein sources. Carbohydrates (stored as glycogen) and fat are the chief sources of energy and are found in cereals, root vegetables and sugars. Carbohydrates make up the bulk of most diets. Fats are a concentrated source of energy and aid the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K). Water and minerals, such as iron, calcium, potassium, and sodium, are also essential.


views updated May 14 2018

diet The food requirements of an organism. The foods that constitute the human diet should contain vitamins, mineral salts (see essential element), and dietary fibre as well as water, carbohydrates and fats (which provide energy), and proteins (required for growth and maintenance). A balanced diet contains of the correct proportions of these nutrients, which will vary depending on the age, sex, body size, and the level of activity of the individual. An inadequate supply of different food types in the diet can lead to malnutrition.


views updated May 14 2018

diet Strictly, a diet is simply the pattern of foods eaten; the normal or habitual intake of food of an individual or population. Commonly used to mean a modified pattern of food consumption for some special purpose, e.g. a slimming, therapeutic, or low‐salt diet (see salt‐free diets) and sometimes named for the person who originated it.


views updated May 18 2018

diet 1 food XIII; customary or prescribed course of food XIV. — (O)F. diète — L. diæta — Gr. díaita course of life.
Hence diet vb. XIV. So dietary course of diet XV; adj. XVII. — medL. diætārium.


views updated Jun 08 2018

diet 2 †day's journey; appointed day or time, meeting, session XV; metal scraped from gold and silver plate assayed day by day at the Mint XVII. — medL. diēta day's journey, allowance, work, wages.