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Take the Daily Diet-Planning Challenge!

Remember a few weeks back when I asked a dietitian to come up with a day's worth of meals that provided all the recommended nutrients within a reasonable number of calories -- without resorting to a multivitamin or other supplement?

That was a big fat cop-out on my part.

I asked for professional help because I knew it was going to be tricky. Though I've used the federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a resource and a general guide, I've never attempted to follow them to a T. (As I note in today's Eat, Drink and Be Healthy column, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines are about to be revised; new ones are due in 2010.)

I was right about the trickiness. Dietitian Danielle Omar had to wrestle hard with her food options to bring them in line with recommendations.

When we published Omar's menu, many readers wrote in with comments, questions and counterproposals.* So I thought I'd let you folks try your hand.

Here's your challenge:

  • Using the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as your guide, plan a day's meals for someone just like yourself -- same age, gender, weight, activity level and desire (or lack thereof) to lose weight.
  • Calculate the calories, fat, fiber and other nutrients for each of the meals, and make any adjustments needed to bring the menu more fully in line with the DGAs.
  • If you have any special dietary needs or preferences -- such as gluten allergy or vegetarianism -- make sure your diet accommodates them.
  • As several readers advised, you don't really have to be a stickler about getting the full dose of every nutrient every day, but make note of which ones you come up short on so you can fit them in another day.
  • You can use any nutrient-calculating Web site or book you choose, but please tell us which ones you have used. Omar used to do her math.
  • Finally, decide for yourself whether to include a supplement. Just be prepared to justify your decision.

Then post your menu and all the data (including the criteria you set up at the start) here in the comments section -- and tell us about your experience putting your diet together. Was it harder than you anticipated? Easier? Frustrating -- or kind of fun?

Let the meal-planning begin!

* Several readers wondered why Omar's TV snack of a banana and skim milk added up to so many calories. That was an editing mixup: When creating the graphic version of her menu, we counted the morning's 8 oz of milk in with the TV snack's portion. Others asked why Omar aimed for just 1,500 mg of sodium daily, while the Guidelines allow 2,300 mg for most healthy people. The lower amount is actually the recommended limit for people with blood pressure, black people and middle-aged and older adults; Omar was showing how hard it is to achieve that low goal.

This week's poll:

Results of last week's poll:

Of the 1,126 people reporting what they do with clothes that no longer fit, 56 percent said they keep 'em, while 43 percent said they pitch 'em.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  April 28, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness  
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Next: Keeping One Eye on Food-Borne Illness

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