The Basics

Am I Eating a Healthy Diet?
Your body needs the right vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to stay healthy. A healthy diet means that you are eating:

  * Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk products
  * Fish, poultry, lean meats, eggs, beans, and nuts

Stay away from:

  * Cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugars
  * Trans fats – trans fats may be in foods like cakes, cookies, stick margarines, and other fried foods
  * Saturated fats – these fats come from animal products like cheese, fatty meats, whole milk, and butter.

There are tools on the Internet that can help you find out if you are eating a healthy diet. MyPyramid Menu Planner can help you choose healthy snacks and meals.

The Benefits

Eating a healthy diet can help keep your body strong and fit. It feels good to know you are making healthy choices that can change your life.

A healthy diet can help protect you from:

  * Heart disease
  * Bone loss
  * Type 2 diabetes
  * High blood pressure
  * Some cancers such as colorectal cancer

What if I am Overweight?
If you eat foods high in calories, sugar, and fat and don't get enough exercise, you could become overweight or obese. That means you have too much body fat. To stay a healthy weight, you need to balance the calories you eat with the calories you use up. Use this Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to learn if you are at a healthy weight.

If you are overweight or obese, losing just 10 pounds may lower your risk of:

  * Heart disease
  * Type 2 diabetes
  * High blood pressure

Take Action!

Making small changes in your eating habits can make a big difference in your life. Here are some tips and tools to get you started.

Keep a Food Diary
Starting today, write down:

  * When you eat
  * What you eat
  * How much you eat
  * Where you eat
  * How you’re feeling when you eat

For example:
Tuesday 3:30 pm, 2 chocolate chip cookies, at work, feeling stressed

When you know what your eating habits are, you can make plans to change them.

Plan Ahead
Planning your meals for the next week can save you time and money. These tools can help you find healthy meals that are easy to make and taste great:

  * The Interactive Menu Planner
  * MyPyramid Menu Planner
  * Keep the Beat: Heart Healthy Recipes

If you are looking for ethnic foods, vegetarian choices, or special recipes for people with food allergies, try these tools:

  * Heart Healthy Home Cooking African American Style
  * DASH eating plan
  * MyPyramid food guide

Shop Smart at the Grocery Store
Here are some tips for the next time you go shopping:

  * Never go to the grocery store hungry!
  * Always use a shopping list.
  * Buy a variety of fruits and vegetables in different colors.
  * Look for the low-sodium or no salt added brands of canned soup, vegetables, and beans.
  * Try the low-fat or non-fat brand of your favorite milk products like yogurt or cheese.
  * Choose 100% whole wheat or whole grain bread and crackers.
  * Buy foods when they are on sale or in season to save money.

Read the Label
Don’t forget to read the Nutrition Facts label. Be sure to look at the serving size and the number of servings per package. Then look at 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, iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C.

Eat Healthy When you are Away From Home
It’s important to make smart food choices wherever you are – at work, in your favorite restaurant, or running errands. Try these tips:

  * At lunch, have a sandwich on whole-grain bread.
  * Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, water, or diet drinks.
  * In a restaurant, choose steamed, broiled, or grilled dishes instead of fried foods.
  * On a long drive or shopping trip, pack some fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, or low-fat string cheese sticks to snack on.

Save Time
Foods that keep you and your family healthy can be fast and easy to make. Here are some tips:

  * Cook several main dishes on the weekend when you have more time.
  * Make soups, stews, or casseroles that you can reheat for more than one meal.
  * Rinse vegetables the day before you need them.

Be a Healthy Family
Many families spend a lot of money on take-out food and restaurant meals. To save money, cook and eat meals at home to stretch your grocery budget.

If you have children, you are a role model for making good food choices. Many kids like to help with grocery shopping and cooking, so let them help out!

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.

What do you want to do today?

  * Make a shopping list with healthy snacks like fruit and non-fat yogurt.
  * Drink water instead of soda or juice.