Eating healthy doesn't have to be difficult. Follow these easy tips to make your diet more nutritious.
Balance your calories
Find out how many calories you need for a day
This is a first step in managing your weight. Go to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov to find your calorie level using the daily food plan. Being physically active also helps you balance calories.
Enjoy your food, but eat less
Take the time to fully enjoy your food as you eat it. Eating too fast or when your attention is elsewhere may lead to eating too many calories. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues before, during and after meals. Use them to recognize when to eat and when you’ve had enough.
Avoid oversized portions
Use a smaller plate, bowl and glass. Portion out foods before you eat. When eating out, choose a smaller size option, share a dish or take home part of your meal.
Foods to eat more often
Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or 1 percent milk and dairy products
These foods have the nutrients you need for health—including potassium, calcium, vitamin D and fiber. Make them the basis for meals and snacks.
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
Choose red, orange and dark green vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli, along with other vegetables for your meals. Add fruit to meals as part of main or side dishes or as dessert.
Make half your grains whole grains
To eat more whole grains, substitute a whole-grain product for a refined product—such as eating whole-wheat bread instead of white bread or brown rice instead of white rice.
Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk
They have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but fewer calories and less saturated fat.
Cut back on some foods
Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars and salt
They include cakes, cookies, ice cream, candies, sweetened drinks, pizza and fatty meats like ribs, sausages, bacon and hot dogs. Use these foods as occasional treats, not everyday foods.
Compare sodium in foods
Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose lower sodium versions of foods like soup, bread and frozen meals. Select canned foods labeled “low sodium,” ”reduced sodium” or “no salt added.”
Drink water instead of sugary drinks
Cut calories by drinking water or unsweetened beverages. Soda, energy drinks and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar, and calories in American diets.
Healthy eating when eating out
Because eating out is no longer a special occasion, it’s important to think about your choices before you order. It’s easy to consume more than 1,000 calories in one restaurant meal. If you’re eating out 3 or 4 times a week that can really add up.
Try these tips from ChooseMyPlate.gov:
- As a beverage choice, ask for water or order fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, or other drinks without added sugars.
- Ask for whole-wheat bread for sandwiches.
- In a restaurant, start your meal with a salad packed with veggies to help control hunger and feel satisfied sooner.
- Ask for salad dressing to be served on the side. Then use only as much as you want.
- Choose main dishes that include vegetables, such as stir fries, kebobs, or pasta with a tomato sauce.
- Order steamed, grilled or broiled dishes instead of those that are fried or sautéed.
- Choose a “small” or “medium” portion. This includes main dishes, side dishes and beverages.
- Order an item from the menu instead heading for the “all-you-can-eat” buffet.
Grocery shopping tips
You can save time and money by making a few simple changes in how you shop for groceries. Healthful eating doesn’t have to cost more—in fact, it might even cost less.
- Make a shopping list—and stick to it.
- Check your cupboards and refrigerator for items you can use and plan to use them.
- Plan your meals for the week and write the ingredients on your list.
- Group foods on your list to match the store’s layout. You’ll shop faster, and it is easier to remember everything.
- Try to shop after eating, not before. You may buy more when you’re hungry.
- Leave your child with a friend or sitter if you need to. Stores put many foods that children like, such as candy and products with prizes, where they can see and reach them.
- Shop when you have time to read labels and compare prices.
- Try to shop just once a week. It’s easier to shop smart if you shop less often.
Watching your pennies
- Buy the amount you need, not more. Then you won’t throw food away.
- Buy foods from the bulk bins if you can. They usually cost less because you don’t pay for packaging and handling. And you only buy as much as you need.
- Buy fresh vegetables in season. They cost less and are likely to be at their peak flavor. Visit your local farmer’s market for great deals on seasonal produce.
- Stock up on frozen vegetables for quick and easy cooking in the microwave.
- Use coupons and check advertised specials. If you don’t get the newspaper, go to your supermarket’s website. Most stores also provide their weekly circulars in their entrances.
- Take advantage of unadvertised specials. Not all products on sale may be advertised. Look for other specials.
- Be aware of prices. Larger containers are not always cheaper. Check the unit pricing that is listed on the shelf under the items (e.g., "3 cents per ounce" or "50 cents per 100 count"). Use unit pricing to compare the prices of different brands.
- Be aware of brands. Higher prices don’t always mean higher quality. Different brands of the same products are often of equal quality. Take a moment to compare.
Keeping food fresh
- Take food home right away. Refrigerate meat, chicken and other perishable foods, so they stay fresh and safe.
- Sort your groceries before you get home. Put all of the perishables in one bag, the snacks in another, and the canned goods in a third. At home, unloading will go more quickly.