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Eat Healthy

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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 External Link 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. Use this food diary or make your own.

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:

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

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.

Get more tips on Healthy Food Shopping.

Nutrition Facts Label
Click this picture for more details about how to read nutrition facts labels.

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.

Get more tips for eating healthy when dining out.

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. If you need a special diet, check out these Web sites:

Healthy Recipe 1     next recipe >

Baked Chicken Nuggets
1 1/2 lb chicken thighs
1 c cornflakes
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 servings
Serving size: about 3 oz
Each serving provides:
* Calories: 175
* Total fat: 8 g
* Cholesterol: 67 mg
* Sodium: 127 mg

Recipe Abbreviations [PDF - 121 KB] External Link

  1. Remove skin and bone; cut thighs into bite-size pieces.
  2. Place cornflakes into plastic bag and crush into crumbs by using a rolling pin.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to crushed cornflakes. Close bag tightly and shake until blended.
  4. Add a few chicken pieces at a time to crumb mixture. Shake to coat evenly.
  5. Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly grease cooking sheet.
  6. Place chicken pieces on cooking sheets so they are not touching.
  7. Bake until golden brown to an internal temperature of 165 F, about 12–14 minutes.

Get ideas for more healthy recipes here.

Healthy Recipe 2     next recipe >

Turkey Meatloaf
1 lb lean ground turkey
1/2 c regular dry oats
1 large egg
1 Tbsp dried onion
1/4 c ketchup

Nutrition Information
Yield: 5 servings
Serving size: 1 slice
Each serving provides:
* Calories: 191
* Total fat: 7 g
* Saturated fat: 2 g
* Cholesterol: 102 mg
* Sodium: 205 mg
* Fiber: 1 g
* Protein: 22 g
* Carbohydrate: 9 g
* Potassium: 268 mg

Recipe Abbreviations [PDF - 121 KB] External Link

  1. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  2. Bake in loaf pan at 350° F or to internal temperature of 165° F for 25 minutes.
  3. Cut into 5 slices and serve.

Get ideas for more healthy recipes here.

Healthy Recipe 3     next recipe >

Macaroni and Cheese
2 c macaroni
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c fat free evaporated milk
1 medium egg
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/4 c low fat sharp cheddar cheese

Nutrition Information
Yield: 8 servings
Serving size: ½ cup
Each serving provides:
* Calories: 200
* Total fat: 4 g
* Saturated fat: 2 g
* Cholesterol: 34 mg
* Sodium: 120 mg
* Fiber: 1 g
* Protein: 11 g
* Carbohydrate: 29 g
* Potassium: 119 mg

Recipe Abbreviations [PDF - 121 KB] External Link

  1. Cook macaroni according to directions. (Do not add salt to the cooking water.) Drain and set aside.
  2. Spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking oil spray. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  3. Lightly spray a saucepan with non-stick cooking oil spray.
  4. Add onions to saucepan and saute for about 3 minutes.
  5. In another bowl, combine macaroni, onions, and the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  6. Transfer mixture into casserole dish.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Get ideas for more healthy recipes here.

Healthy Recipe 4

Peach Apple Crisp
20 oz canned peaches light syrup
2 tart apples
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c + 3 Tbsp flour
1/4 c brown sugar
3 Tbsp margarine

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 servings
Serving size: ½ cup, plus
4 servings for another meal
Each serving provides:
* Calories: 175
* Total fat: 5 g
* Saturated fat: 1 g
* Cholesterol: 0 mg
* Sodium: 57 mg

Recipe Abbreviations [PDF - 121 KB] External Link

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease 9- by 9- by 2-inch casserole dish.
  2. Combine drained peaches, apples, vanilla, and cinnamon in a bowl. Toss well and spread evenly in greased casserole dish.
  3. Combine flour and packed brown sugar in small bowl. Cut in soft margarine with two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Sprinkle flour mixture evenly over fruit.
  5. Bake until lightly browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Get ideas for more healthy recipes here.

Learn how eating healthy relates to heart disease; overweight and obesity; and colorectal cancer.

What do you want to do today?

  • Print out this food diary to keep track of what you eat.
  • Make a shopping list with healthy snacks like fruit and non-fat yogurt.
  • Drink water instead of soda or juice.
  • Send an e-card to encourage a friend or family member to eat healthy foods.

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    National Health Information Center

    P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133