A healthy eating pattern can help keep you healthy.
Eating healthy is good for your overall health – and there are many ways to do it.
Making smart food choices can also help you manage your weight and lower your risk for certain chronic (long-term) diseases.
When you eat healthy, you can reduce your risk for:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Some types of cancer
Eating healthy means following a healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of nutritious foods and drinks. It also means getting the number of calories that’s right for you (not eating too much or too little).
Use your calories to eat a variety of healthy foods.
To eat healthy, be sure to choose:
- Whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
- A variety of foods with protein, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products
Limit certain nutrients and ingredients.
Sodium is found in table salt – but most of the sodium we eat comes from packaged food or food that’s prepared in restaurants.
Added sugars include syrups and sweeteners that manufacturers add to products like sodas, yogurt, and cereals – as well as things you add, like sugar in your coffee.
Saturated fats come from animal products like cheese, fatty meats and poultry, whole milk, butter, and many sweets and snack foods. Some plant products like palm and coconut oils also have saturated fats.
Refined grains and starches
Refined grains and starches are in foods like cookies, white bread, and some snack foods.
Track Your Meals
Making small changes to your eating habits can make a big difference for your health over time. 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.”
Helpful Tips for Eating Out
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 instead of white bread.
- Skip the soda – drink water instead.
- In a restaurant, choose dishes that are steamed, baked, or grilled instead of fried.
- On a long drive or shopping trip, pack healthy snacks like fruit, unsalted nuts, or low-fat string cheese sticks.