Experts agree the key to healthy eating is the time-tested advice of
balance, variety and moderation. In short, that means eating a wide
variety of foods without getting too many calories or too much of any
one nutrient. These 10 tips can help you follow that advice while still
enjoying the foods you eat.
1. Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods. You need more than
40 different nutrients for good health, and no single food supplies them
all. Your daily food selection should include bread and other
whole-grain products; fruits; vegetables; dairy products; and meat,
poultry, fish and other protein foods. How much you should eat depends
on your calorie needs. Use the Food
Guide Pyramid and the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels as handy
2. Enjoy plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Surveys show most Americans don't eat enough of these foods. If you're not used
to whole grains, start out with switching from white bread to a
multi-grain or regular pasta to whole wheat pasta.
Try to get at least 5+ servings of fruits and veggies each day. If you don't enjoy some of these at first, give
them another chance. Look through cookbooks for tasty ways to prepare
Plan ahead. Planning meals ahead of time helps reduce
impulse eating. Try planning your menu for a week and shop ahead
of time so that you have all the ingredients in your kitchen. If
you're crunched for time, do a little meal preparation ahead of
time so that time spent to create the dish is reduced.
4. Eat moderate portions. If you keep portion sizes
reasonable, it's easier to eat the foods you want and stay healthy. Did
you know the recommended serving of cooked meat is 3 ounces, similar in
size to a deck of playing cards? A medium piece of fruit is 1 serving
and a cup of pasta equals 2 servings.
5. Eat regular meals. Skipping meals can lead to
out-of-control hunger, often resulting in overeating. When you're very
hungry, it's also tempting to forget about good nutrition. Snacking
between meals can help curb hunger, but don't eat so much that your
snack becomes an entire meal.
6. Reduce, don't eliminate, certain foods. Most people eat for
pleasure as well as nutrition. If your favorite foods are high in fat,
salt or sugar, the key is moderating how much of these foods you eat and
how often you eat them.
Identify major sources of these ingredients in your diet and make
changes, if necessary. Adults who eat high-fat meats or whole-milk dairy
products at every meal are probably eating too much fat. Use the
Nutrition Facts panel on the food label to help balance your choices.
Choosing skim or low-fat dairy products and lean cuts of meat such as
flank steak and beef round can reduce fat intake significantly.
If you love fried chicken, however, you don't have to give it up.
Just eat it less often. When dining out, share it with a friend, ask for
a take-home bag or a smaller portion.
7. Balance your food choices over time. Not every food has to
be "perfect." When eating a food high in fat, salt or sugar, select
other foods that are low in these ingredients. If you miss out on any
food group one day, make up for it the next. Your food choices over
several days should fit together into a healthy pattern.
8. Know your pitfalls. To improve your eating habits,
you first have to know what's wrong with them. Write down everything you
eat for three days. Then check your list according to the rest of these
tips. Do you add a lot of butter, creamy sauces or salad dressings?
Rather than eliminating these foods, just cut back your portions. Are
you getting enough fruits and vegetables? If not, you may be missing out
on vital nutrients.
9. Make changes gradually. Just as there are no "super foods"
or easy answers to a healthy diet, don't expect to totally revamp your
eating habits overnight. Changing too much, too fast can get in the way
of success. Begin to remedy excesses or deficiencies with modest changes
that can add up to positive, lifelong eating habits. For instance, if
you don't like the taste of skim milk, try low-fat. Eventually you may
find you like skim, too.
10. Remember, foods are not good or bad. Select foods based on
your total eating patterns, not whether any individual food is "good" or
"bad." Don't feel guilty if you love foods like apple pie, potato
chips, candy bars or ice cream. Eat them in moderation, and choose other
foods to provide the balance and variety that is vital to good health.
Managing Your Weight