Healthy Eating

Eating a healthy diet full of nutrients can help you stay at a healthy weight and may help protect you from certain diseases.
Healthy Eating

A nutrient is anything in food that:

• Provides energy
• Helps your body “burn” another nutrient to provide energy
• Helps build or repair tissue
Also Read About Nutrition basics
Making healthy choices (Read this guide in making healthy choices) can sometimes be hard, but there are easy changes you can make to eat better. To help prevent heart disease, stroke, and perhaps other diseases, you should eat mainly:
• Fruits and vegetables
• Grains (at least half of your grains should be whole grains, such as whole wheat, oatmeal, and brown rice)
• Fat-free or low-fat versions of milk, cheese, yogurt, and other milk products
• Fish, skinless poultry, lean red meats, beans, eggs, and nuts
• Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (some foods that have these “good” fats include salmon, avocados, olives, walnuts, and olive oil)

An unhealthy diet and not exercising help make someone overweight or obese. Being overweight raises the risk of having some health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, breathing problems, arthritis, gall-bladder disease, osteoarthritis, and some cancers.

You can avoid unhealthy foods by limiting:

• Saturated fat (Saturated fat is the main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol. It is found mostly in foods from animals and some plants.)
• Trans fat (The amount of trans fat content in foods is printed on the Nutrition Facts label. Keep trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total calories. For example, if you need 2,000 calories a day, you should consume less than 2 grams of trans fat.)
• Cholesterol
• Sodium
• Added sugars
To stay at a healthy weight, you need to balance the calories you eat with the calories you use up (burn). To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. A healthy diet and physical activity can help you control your weight.
Steps you can take:
• Focus on fruits. For a 2,000-calorie diet, you will need 1½ to 2 cups of fruit each day (like one small banana, one large orange, and ¼ cup of dried apricots or peaches).
• Vary your veggies. Eat more dark green veggies (such as broccoli, kale, spinach, and other dark leafy greens); orange veggies (like sweet potatoes or carrots); and beans and peas. For a 2,000-calorie diet, you will need 2 to 2½ cups of vegetables each day (like 12 baby carrots and 1 cup of cooked spinach).
• Get your calcium-rich foods. Get 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk (or the same amount of low-fat yogurt and/or low-fat cheese) every day. One cup of milk equals 1½ ounces of hard cheese or one regular container (8 ounces) of yogurt. Lactose-free milk products and/or other calcium-fortified foods and drinks (like orange juice, salmon, spinach, and cereals) can give you calcium if you don’t drink regular milk.
• Make half your grains whole. Eat at least 3 ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice, or pasta every day. One ounce is about one slice of bread, 1 cup of breakfast cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta. Eat whole-wheat bread instead of white bread or brown rice instead of white rice.
• Eat fish. Broil, bake, steam, or grill your fish instead of frying it. Fish and shellfish contain a type of fat called omega-3 fatty acids — it’s good for you! Research suggests that eating
omega-3 fatty acids lowers your chances of dying from heart disease. Fish that naturally contain more oil (such as salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines) have more omega-3 fatty acids than lean fish (such as cod, haddock, and catfish). You can also get omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources, such as:
• Canola oil
• Soybean oil
• Walnuts
• Ground flaxseed (linseed) and flaxseed oil
• Go lean with protein. Choose lean meat, poultry, and fish. Bake it, broil it, or steam it. Mix up your protein sources with more beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
• Limit saturated fats and trans fats. Get less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats. Most of the fats you eat should come from foods such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. When cooking meat, poultry, and fish, choose lean cuts. When having milk products, choose low-fat or fat-free kinds. Avoid trans fats, which are found in some processed foods (such as packaged cakes and cookies). Saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol tend to raise “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease. To lower risk of heart disease, cut back on foods containing saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.
• Limit salt. Eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium (about 1 tea-spoon of salt) each day. If you are older than age 51, or if you are African-American (at any age), or if you have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, you should eat less than 1,500 mg of sodium each day. Most of the salt we eat each day actually comes from processed foods rather than salt that we add to foods that we cook. Cut back on frozen dinners, pizza, packaged mixes, canned soups or broths, and salad dressings — these often have a lot of sodium. Make sure to check the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label when buying food.
• Limit added sugars. Since sugars contribute calories with few, if any, nutrients, look for foods and beverages low in added sugars. Read the ingredient list and make sure that added sugars are not one of the first few ingredients. Some names for added sugars include sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose.
• Watch your portion sizes. Eating too many calories, even if they come from healthy foods, can lead to weight gain. If you are eating in a restaurant, split your meal with a friend if it’s large. At home, use small plates for your meals.
• Balance your calories. Remember that the calories that come in should be burned. Too many calories will lead to weight gain if they are not burned by exercise.

How many calories should I eat?

Use the Interactive Tools at Pyramid.gov. They will show you the number of calories you need to eat each day to keep your current weight. If you are overweight, eat fewer calories than you burn to lose weight.

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