A healthy diet provides the body with the nutrients it needs to function properly and protects against many chronic non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. It is based on a variety of foods that contain whole grains, fruit, vegetables, lean proteins and unsaturated fats (such as olive, canola and peanut oil) and limits processed and sugary foods and drinks.
In addition, a healthy diet is high in fiber and low in sodium and added sugars. It also contains a range of vitamins and minerals to help keep the body strong.
Eating a balanced diet and being physically active are essential for health. However, a healthy diet can be difficult for many people to achieve, especially if they don’t have the right resources and support.
A large body of evidence supports that a healthy diet lowers the risk for common chronic non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. A healthy diet includes a wide variety of foods and beverages, limiting added sugars and saturated fats, while increasing intakes of fiber, calcium, and potassium. It is also low in trans fat and includes a variety of protein sources, particularly beans/legumes, fish, poultry, lean meats, nuts and seeds.
Choosing a healthier food doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, it can be as simple as changing just one or two things in your daily eating habits. Try adding a salad to lunch or sprinkling cooked vegetables on top of dinner, for example. Or start by replacing a glass of soda with water, adding slices of fresh lime or lemon, and choose low-fat milk or fortified soymilk over full-fat options.
Make small changes that will add up over time. For example, instead of frying chicken breasts in butter, try baking them in the oven. Or, swap butter for a spray oil when cooking. Similarly, at restaurants, ask for smaller servings and use visual cues to judge portion sizes: the size of a deck of cards or half a cup of cooked pasta or rice is a good guide.
Replace foods high in saturated fat with those containing monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil and avocados, or omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in cold-water fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Reduce the amount of salt in your meals and opt for unsalted or low-sodium packaged foods. Avoid added sugars and sugary beverages, which contribute to tooth decay, weight gain, and heart disease. Eat more fruits and vegetables, especially dark green and red ones (3 or more servings a day) and whole-grain, high-fiber breads and cereals. Also, eat legumes (such as peas and lentils), nuts and seeds, and skinless poultry, fish, and lean meats. Also, opt for low-fat dairy products and drink water or unsweetened, unflavored sparkling waters. Limit alcohol and choose beverages low in sodium. For dessert, eat fruit or low-fat yogurt.