Small changes in eating habits add up bite by bite. Make every bite count with a healthy eating plan that can give you a boost today and fuel your health in the years to come. Choose varied fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein. Nutritious food and drink can help counter chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
If you find the idea of eating healthy appealing but don’t know where to start, let your doctor or a registered dietician guide you. One tool to kickstart your plan is Start Simple with MyPlate, which divides a healthy plate into recommended portions of proteins, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Get set for success by limiting the amount of junk food that’s in your fridge. Read labels and be wary of stocking your pantry with processed foods. Keep nutritious snacks on hand for the afternoon munchies. Use MyPlate to plan, portion, and prep meals. Here are our tips to get you started on the road to eating healthy.
Practice mindful eating.
Pay attention to what you eat and how much you eat throughout the day. Eat recommended serving sizes, and you can improve metabolism, weight, hormone balance, and energy. Portion control can guide you in structuring a healthy plate. Aim for half fruit and vegetables, a quarter protein-rich food, and a quarter whole grains. Check food labels to see how much one serving is. Prevent over-eating out of the bag by pre-portioning food in another container.
Limit processed foods.
Canned and frozen products often mean added salt, sugar, and preservatives in food. Heavy processing can increase calories and reduce nutrients. Studies have tied ultra-processed foods, such as sugary cereals, to cardiovascular disease. Research also links processed and cured meats like deli meat and hot dogs to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, while the World Health Organization classifies processed meats as carcinogens.
Nutritionists advise swapping out processed foods for healthier alternatives. Trade soda for sparkling water or tea, sugary cereal for oatmeal or yogurt, or chips for plain popcorn. Not all packaged foods need to be gotten rid of!
Load up on fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals and can reduce your risk of disease. Many plant-based foods contain vitamin A, which protects against infection and keeps skin and eyes healthy, and vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that boosts your immune system and helps your body absorb iron.
- Strawberries, apples, and broccoli are all rich in fiber, which aids digestion and relieves constipation.
- Avocados, bananas, and leafy greens contain magnesium, which builds strong bones.
- Watermelons, spinach, and sweet potatoes are high in potassium, which helps maintain healthy blood pressure.
Choose whole grains.
Studies show eating whole grains (instead of refined grains) improves total cholesterol and lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease. Refining grains yields a finer texture and improves shelf life, but removing the bran and germ removes fiber and B vitamins. Each part of the grain contains important nutrients: fiber and B vitamins in the outer layer of bran, carbohydrates and protein in the inner layer (or endosperm), and B vitamins, healthy fats, and vitamin E in the germ.
Look for healthy fats.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 6 percent of your daily calories. Conversely, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends unsaturated fats make up 20 to 35 percent of total calories. A 2010 study found participants who replaced 5 percent of their saturated fats with unsaturated fats were at less risk of coronary heart disease.
Unsaturated fats are found in nuts, avocados, olive oil, and salmon. Saturated fats include coconut oil, full-fat dairy products, and fatty meat. Nutritionists say Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fat, are essential for a healthy diet. Omega-3s are found in fish, flaxseed, and walnuts.