There is no one-size-fits-all diet that defines healthful eating. No matter what the healthy eating plan entails, when advised by a registered dietitian nutritionist, it will be nutrient-rich while offering a variety of foods to promote good health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.
RDNs often use The Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a general reference. The current Guidelines emphasize a healthy eating pattern which includes whole fruits, a variety of vegetables, whole grains, lean protein foods and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products with limited amounts of saturated fats, trans fats, sodium and added sugars.
Healthful eating involves more than just monitoring food categories or nutrients throughout the day. It also involves properly handling the food that's eaten. In order for food to help maintain or improve your health, it must also be safe to eat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, estimates that about 1 in 6 Americans (that's 48 million people!) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases each year. The causes of food poisoning vary from year to year as the environment changes.
There are ways you can reduce your risk, though. For example, handwashing is considered one of the most important things you can do to help prevent food poisoning and is one of the best places to get started when handling food. You can also consult a registered dietitian nutritionist who can help you create a healthful eating plan that also addresses food safety. An RDN can help you to understand which foods are most likely to cause foodborne illness, if you’re at increased risk and how to safely buy, store and prepare food to reduce your risk of getting sick. Use the Find an Expert tool to locate an RDN in your area.
For additional information and resources visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Home Food Safety website.
Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN contributed to this article.