Eating right doesn't have to be complicated — simply begin to shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Start building a smarter plate by choosing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy — foods that are packed with the nutrients you need without all the added sugars and solid fats. In addition, you can help reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke by eating less sodium.
Focus on Variety
- Choose a variety of foods from all the food groups to get the nutrients your body needs. Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, frozen or canned.
- Eat more dark green vegetables such as leafy greens and broccoli and orange vegetables including carrots and sweet potatoes.
- Vary your protein choices with more fish, beans and lentils.
- Aim for at least 3 ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta every day.
Know Your Fats
- Look for foods low in saturated fat and trans fat to help reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Make most of the fats you eat monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils.
- Check the Nutrition Facts label on food packaging.
Eat Fewer Foods High in Solid Fats
- Opt for lean ground beef, turkey, chicken, fish, beans, lentils and tofu. Cut back on processed meats such as hot dogs, salami and bacon.
- Grill, broil, bake or steam foods instead of frying.
- Cook with healthy oils such as olive, canola and sunflower oils in place of partially-hydrogenated oils or butter.
- Select low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese.
Choose Foods and Drinks with Little or No Added Sugars
- Drink mostly water and opt for low-fat or fat-free milk or 100-percent fruit juice in moderate amounts.
- Add lemons, limes or cucumbers to water or drink unsweetened carbonated water.
- Eat fresh fruit for dessert more often than cakes, cookies or pastries.
- Buy foods with little-to-no added sugars, including unsweetened applesauce or unsweetened whole-grain cereals.
Cut Back on Sodium
- Use herbs and spices to season foods instead of salt.
- Hold the salt when you cook pasta, rice and vegetables.
- Read the Nutrition Facts label to compare the sodium content of high-sodium foods such as pre-made foods, frozen meals, bread, canned soups and vegetables.
Think nutrient-rich rather than "good" or "bad" foods. The majority of your food choices should be packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, and lower in calories. Making smart food choices can help you stay healthy, manage your weight and be physically active.
For more information on healthful changes you can make to your eating plan, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area.