Eating For Better Health

These guidelines contain today’s best scientific advice on selection of foods for promoting health, preventing disease and maintaining or losing weight. These are general guidelines that apply to most healthy people. If you have a chronic disease or other special nutritional needs, contact a registered dietitian for specific recommendations.
Aim for Fitness

Maintain or work toward a healthy weight.
Be physically active every day—return fun and play to your life. Get moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week.
Healthy eating provides the sustained energy you need to be physically active.
Learn to manage your stress with exercise, healthy eating, relaxation, and good coping skills.

Build Healthy Eating Habits
photo: family having a healthy fruit snack

Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark green, red, and orange vegetables (3 or more servings a day).
Eat a variety of fruits (2 or more servings a day).
Eat whole-grain, high-fiber breads and cereals (3 to 6 servings a day). Reduce or eliminate refined or processed carbohydrates; most of the grains in your diet should be whole grains.
Drink fat-free or low-fat milk and eat low-fat dairy products.
Choose from a variety of low-fat sources of protein — including eggs, beans, poultry without skin, seafood, lean meats, unsalted nuts, seeds, and soy products. If you eat meat, eat white meat at least four times more often than red meat.
Reduce intake of saturated fats and trans-fats (such as partially hydrogenated oil) as much as possible.
Use vegetable oils (like olive or canola oil) instead of solid fats.
Reduce daily intake of salt or sodium. Reduce to less than 1,500 mg. per day if you are older than 50, or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
Restrict or eliminate “junk food” — foods that contain refined white flour, solid fats or trans fats, added sugars, and are high in sodium.
Restrict or eliminate sodas and other sugar-added drinks that are high in calories and contain few or no nutrients.
If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. Drink only when it doesn’t put you or anyone else at risk.

To Lose Weight

Reduce the number of calories you eat daily. Eat smaller portions—don’t “upsize” your meals at fast food restaurants.
Follow the dietary guidelines above.
Eliminate all sugar-added drinks from your diet. You can drink 100% fruit juice, unsweetened, but limit servings to one or two a day. Drink more water.
Decrease the amount of time spent in sedentary activities, especially watching television. Use your screen-free time working on hobbies, house cleaning, yard work, or engaging in fun activities.
Get moderate physical activity (such as walking, bicycling, swimming, or using aerobic exercise machines) for 30 to 60 minutes a day, at least five days a week.
Do muscle strengthening and toning exercises at least 2 or 3 days a week.

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For more information about the Dietary Guidelines and the latest nutrition information, visit the U.S. Government’s Nutrition Information portal.

Also visit the home page for our 5-2-1-Almost None educational campaign about nutrition and physical activity.

These tips for healthy eating are based on recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, a publication of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, and The Harvard Diet.

Tips for Creating a Healthy Lifestyle

Many people today more than ever want to learn how they can live a healthier lifestyle. Creating a healthy lifestyle is an intimidating thought for some people. Some worry that they will not be able to afford the foods or the equipment that they feel they will need to be healthy; others simply do not like change and are concerned with the changes that they will have to make to their lifestyle.

Changes that can be made to any lifestyle can be done without costing a small fortune. In fact, some of these changes could potentially save money. One example of a healthy change that can save you a lot of money each year is smoking. If you are a smoker then you are likely aware of the harm it is causing your body, but most smokers, once they sit down and do the math, cannot believe that they are spending such a large portion of their income on their cigarette habit.

Another healthy change to consider is cutting snack foods and soda from your diet. Instead of soda, sip on flavored water, fresh juice, or green tea. Instead of choosing cream-filled cupcakes, reach for fresh vegetables or unbuttered popcorn.

Buying organic food can be fairly expensive. If you stop buying the foods that are not healthy, such as soft drinks, than you will free up a portion of your monthly budget that can now be applied to healthier foods. Cut costs of organically grown food by buying in bulk where it makes sense and by buying your items whole instead of pre-cut. For example, you will pay much less for 2 or 3 red bell peppers if you buy them when they are whole instead of buying a package that are pre-cut.

Whole grains are filling and are good for your body. Oatmeal, barley, brown rice and millet are just a few examples of the whole grains that you might consider buying that are cost-effective and easy on your budget.

The key to creating a healthy lifestyle is to make choices that you can live with while making the needed adjustments to your daily routine. One of the best ways to ensure success is by making these changes gradually. If one of your goals happens to be exercising, start out by taking a short walk each day in the morning or the evening. Walk for 10 minutes each day. After you have made this commitment to yourself, stick with it for a month. The following month, increase your walk to 20 minutes, then 30 minutes the following month. Continue in this fashion until you have met your goals.

Making lists of goals and things that need to be changed is a method that many people use. Looking at a list each day will help to keep all of your goals in perspective and allow you to work through one item on the list at a time.

Do not concern yourself with the fact that you are not making all of these changes fast enough. It is a lifetime commitment, changing old habits and routines takes time.