To be healthy, your body needs to get enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Eating healthy means getting plenty of:
- Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products
- Seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, seeds, and nuts
Eating healthy also means limiting:
- Cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugars
- Trans fats, which may be in foods like cakes, cookies, stick margarines, and fried foods
- Saturated fats, which come from animal products like cheese, fatty meats, whole milk, and butter
- Foods made with refined grains, like white bread, noodles, white rice, and flour tortillas
A healthy diet can help you be strong and active.
Eating healthy is good for your overall health. Making smart food choices can also help you manage your weight and lower your risk for certain diseases.
When you eat healthy foods (and limit unhealthy foods), you can reduce your risk for:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Some types of cancer
- Osteoporosis (bone loss)
Making small changes to your eating habits can make a big difference for your health. Here are some tips and tools you can use to get started.
Keep a food diary.
Knowing what you eat now will help you figure out what you want to change. Print this food diary [PDF – 36 KB] and write down:
- When you eat
- What and how much you eat
- Where you are and who you are with when you eat
- How you are feeling when you eat
For example, you might write something like:
“Tuesday 3:30 pm, 2 chocolate chip cookies, at work with Mary, feeling stressed.”
Shop smart at the grocery store.
Try these tips the next time you go food shopping:
- Eat a snack at home before you go to the store.
- Make a shopping list ahead of time.
- Buy a variety of vegetables and fruits in different colors. These shopping tips can help [PDF – 530 KB].
- Look for low sodium foods from this list.
- Choose fat-free or low-fat milk products.
- Replace old favorites with the healthy, lower fat choices on this list.
- Choose 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain bread and crackers.
- To save money, buy fruits and vegetables that are in season or on sale.
Read the Nutrition Facts label.
Understanding the Nutrition Facts label on food packages can help you make healthy choices.
- Look at the serving size and the number of servings per package.
- Check out the percent Daily Value (% DV) column.
- Try to keep saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium at 5% or less.
- Look for foods that have 20% or more of fiber, calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.
Click the picture below for more about how to read a Nutrition Facts label.
Be a healthy family.
Parents and caregivers are important role models for healthy eating. You can teach kids how to choose and prepare healthy foods.
- Use this chart to help your family shop for healthy foods [PDF – 136 KB]. Take your child with you to the store and explain the choices you make.
- Turn cooking into a fun activity for the whole family. Let your young child help with these kitchen tasks [PDF – 12 KB].
- Check out these quick tips for making healthy snacks.
- Get more ideas on how to be a healthy role model for your kids [PDF – 459 KB].
If you have a family member who has a hard time eating healthy, use these tips to start a conversation about how you can help.
Eat healthy away from home.
You can make smart food choices wherever you are – at work, in your favorite restaurant, or out running errands. Try these tips for eating healthy even when you are away from home:
- At lunch, have a sandwich on whole-grain bread.
- Drink fat-free or low-fat milk, water, or 100% fruit juice.
- In a restaurant, choose dishes that are steamed, broiled, or grilled instead of fried.
- On a long drive or shopping trip, pack fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, or low-fat string cheese sticks to snack on.
If you are worried about your eating habits, talk to a doctor.
If you need help making healthier food choices, your doctor or nurse can help. Be sure to take a food diary with you to help start the conversation.
What about cost?
Because of the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, health plans must cover diet counseling for people at higher risk for chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get diet counseling at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to find out what’s included in your plan.
Manage your high blood pressure or diabetes.
If you or a loved one has high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or heart disease, talk with your doctor about how to stay healthy. If you need to follow a special diet, check out these websites: