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Eat Healthy

family eating healthy food

The Basics

Your body needs the right vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to stay healthy. A healthy diet means that you are eating:

  • Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products
  • Seafood, 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 fried foods.
  • Saturated fats – These fats come from animal products like cheese, fatty meats, whole milk, and butter.

Get a personalized Daily Food Plan to help you choose healthy foods.

A healthy diet can keep your body strong and active.
By making smart food choices, you can help protect yourself from:

  • Heart disease
  • Bone loss
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Some cancers, such as colorectal cancer

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.
Knowing what you eat now will help you make changes. Starting today, write down:

  • When you eat
  • What you eat
  • How much you eat
  • Where and with whom you eat
  • How you are feeling when you eat

For example:
Tuesday 3:30 pm, 2 chocolate chip cookies, at work with Mary, feeling stressed

Print this food diary [PDF - 36 KB] to get started.

Plan ahead to save time.
Planning your meals for the day or week can save you time and money. These tools can help you plan healthy meals that are easy to make and taste great.

Try these other tips to save time:

  • Cook several main dishes on the weekend when you have more time. Make enough to get you through the busy weeknights.
  • Rinse and chop vegetables the day before you will need them.

Check out these tips for planning healthy meals [PDF - 410 KB].

Find recipes that work for you.
If you are looking for ethnic foods or special recipes, try these tools:

Shop smart at the grocery store.
Try these tips the next time you go shopping:

Use this healthy foods checklist to make your shopping list.

Nutrition Facts Label
Click this picture for more about how to read a nutrition facts label.

Read the nutrition facts label.

  • Look at the serving size and the number of servings per package.
  • Check out 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, calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.

Use this interactive tool to practice using food labels to make healthy choices.

Be a healthy family.
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!

Do you have a family member who has a hard time eating healthy? Use these tips to start a conversation about how you can help.

Eat healthy 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 100% fruit juice.
  • In a restaurant, choose steamed, broiled, or grilled dishes instead of fried foods.
  • On a long drive or shopping trip, pack fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, or fat-free or low-fat string cheese sticks to snack on.

Get more tips for eating healthy when dining out.

If you are concerned about your diet, talk to a doctor.
If you need help making healthier eating choices, your doctor or nurse can help. Be sure to take a food diary with you to help start the conversation.

What about cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, diet counseling is covered for people at higher risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get diet counseling at no cost to you. Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan.

For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

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:

Learn more ways you can prevent type 2 diabetes. Find out how to help your child stay at a healthy weight.

Start Today: Small Steps

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Content last updated on: September 28, 2012

National Health Information Center

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