A healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. It also helps you feel better and look good.
You can eat a variety of foods from all the food groups, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and lean meats. Limiting processed foods, eating moderate amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol, and getting enough exercise are all essential to maintaining a healthy diet.
Fill Half of Your Plate with Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
When planning your meals, choose a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that are colorful and nutritious, such as dark green, red, orange and purple vegetables. Then pair them with a small portion of low-fat dairy such as milk or yogurt and a small portion of whole grain breads and pastas.
Avoid eating fatty or high-salt foods, especially junk food. The more saturated fat and sodium you eat, the higher your risk of obesity, stroke and high blood pressure.
Try to eat less of these foods and more of healthier options, such as fruit, nuts, whole grains and legumes. Be sure to limit the amount of refined sugar you consume.
Include Protein, Fiber and Healthy Fat in Every Meal and Snack
To keep your body full of energy, eat food that contains lots of protein, fiber and healthy fat. These nutrients take longer to digest, so they blunt any rapid spikes in blood sugar and help you feel satisfied for longer.
Make sure to eat breakfast within 2 hours of waking up, and then eat a balanced meal for lunch and dinner. This is important to help you keep your weight and health steady and prevent hunger during the day.
The US Department of Agriculture and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have great resources to help you plan a healthy diet. You can use their websites to find out about current research, nutrition information, dietary supplements, and more.
Adding More Protein and Fiber to Your Diet
Providing protein foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients is an easy way to improve your diet. Lean meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs and beans are excellent sources of protein. Nuts, seeds, soy and fortified cereals are other protein-rich options.
Be sure to eat a variety of whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, bulgur and pasta. The more whole grains you eat, the more your body will get the essential nutrients it needs to function well and stay strong.
A handful of nuts a day are another great source of protein, fiber and healthy fats. Nuts are also high in vitamin E and magnesium, a nutrient important for bone health.
Add more whole grains to your diet by replacing some of the white flour and sugar-laden breads and pastas you may eat with whole grain options such as brown rice, barley, oats and rye.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to get vitamins, minerals and fiber. These are lower in calories than other foods, and contain antioxidants that protect you from harmful effects of toxins.