Life can be hectic, and sometimes it’s hard to take the time to make healthy food choices. But making wise food choices along with regular physical activity can offer big benefits, now and in the future. Good nutrition may help you lower your risk of some chronic diseases, have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, and reach and stay at a healthy body weight. Healthy eating habits can help you feel your best—today and every day.
Healthy eating plan
You might feel confused by all the conflicting information you hear about what to eat. But, in reality, a healthy eating plan can help you make wise food choices. A healthy eating plan includes:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole Grains
- Fat-free or low-fat versions of milk, cheese, yogurt, and other milk products
- Lean meats, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, and nuts
- Good Fats
Your healthy eating plan should be low in:
- Saturated fat
- Added sugars
If you’re a vegetarian, you can still have a healthy eating plan, even if you avoid some foods.
Make sure at least half of your grain choices are whole grain. Examples of grain foods are cereals, breads, crackers, and pasta. Check the list of ingredients. Look for grain foods that list “whole” or “whole grain” as the first ingredient, such as whole wheat flour in bread. Whole grains haven’t lost any fiber or nutrients from processing. They help meet your nutrient needs, as do foods made from enriched grains.
Choose a variety of vegetables, including:
- Collard greens
- Orange vegetables (carrots)
- Sweet potatoes
- Dy beans
- Pinto beans, kidney beans, black
beans, garbanzo beans, split peas,
For most of your fruit servings, choose a variety of fruits (without added sugars) in various forms, such as fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. For example, try fresh apples, frozen blueberries, canned peaches, or dried apricots. Look for canned fruit packed in water or 100 percent fruit juice, instead of syrup. Go easy on fruit juice because it lacks fiber. If you do have fruit juice, make sure it’s 100 percent fruit juice.
Choose low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt.
If you have lactose intolerance, you can still get calcium from reduced-lactose milk, other milk products, and non- dairy sources of calcium. Many people with lactose intolerance can eat small amounts of milk, cheese, yogurt, and other milk products without discom- fort. Or you can take the enzyme lactase in the form of pills or liquid drops
before you eat dairy products.
If you can’t or don’t consume milk, cheese, or yogurt, choose other sources of calcium, such as calcium-fortified soy drinks, calcium-fortified tofu, collard greens, or fortified ready-to-eat cereals.
Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry, such as chicken without the
skin, or top round (a lean cut of beef ). Prepare meat, fish, and poultry using
low-fat cooking methods, such as baking, broiling, or grilling.
Vary your protein choices. Try fish, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds. For example, try making a main dish without meat for dinner, such as pasta with beans, at least once a week.
Everyone needs some fat as part of a healthful diet. Fats should provide about 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories. Even though some fats are heart-healthy, they are still high in calories. Limit serving sizes of all fats.
Choose heart-healthy fats: foods with monounsaturated fats and polyun- saturated fatty acids, such as salmon or corn oil. Most of the fat you eat should come from vegetable oils, nuts, and fish. For example, cook with canola oil. Snack on nuts. Have fish for dinner.
Limit how often you have heart-harmful fats: foods with saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, such as bacon, whole milk, and foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. (See page 325 for more examples.) Limit how often you have fats that are solid at room temperature and the foods that contain them, such as fatty cuts of meat. If you eat foods with heart-harmful fats, limit how much you eat of them.
Limit your sodium to less than 2300 mil ligrams each day. Choose foods with little sodium. Fruits, vegetables, dry beans and peas, and fresh meat, poultry, and fish are naturally low in sodium. You can also check the Nutrition Facts label on food packages. (Food labels use the word “sodium” instead of salt.) Many processed foods are high in sodium. Try to cut back on how much salt you add while you cook and at the table.
Limit the amount of foods and drinks you consume with added sugars, such as cakes, cookies, regular soft drinks, and candy.
How to start changing the way you eat Sometimes it’s hard to change habits. But making a change step by step can help.
- Choose one small change you’d like to make.
Make your idea as specific and realistic as possible. For example, instead of saying, “I will eat more high-fiber
food,” say, “I will have an orange three days a week for breakfast.”
Decide on when you will make this change, choosing a short period of time. For example, set a goal for this week.
- Write down your plan.
When your idea has become a regular habit, choose something new to try.
Ideas for improving your food choices
Instead of Try
Whole milk Low-fat (1%) milk or fat-free (skim) milk
Sour cream Plain yogurt, low-fat or non-fat
White bread or flour tortillas Whole wheat bread or whole wheat tortillas
Bacon Lean ham
Regular ground beef Lean ground beef (5% fat)
Regular ice cream Low-fat frozen yogurt
Fried chicken Roasted chicken without the skin