Staying a healthy weight is about making sure that you and your family keep an energy balance. Energy is another word for "calories." What you eat and drink is ENERGY IN. What you burn through physical activity is ENERGY OUT.
The same amount of ENERGY IN (calories consumed) and ENERGY OUT
(calories burned) over time = weight stays the same
More IN than OUT over time = weight gain
More OUT than IN over time = weight loss
The best way to make sure your energy equation is balanced is to make better choices before you or your family even picks up that fork—or tips that glass to your lips—by making sure to:
- Choose foods that are lower in fat and have fewer calories
- Shop “smart” at the grocery store by learning to read the Nutrition Facts Label on packaged foods, and identifying other, more nutritious foods.
- Use the GO, SLOW, and WHOA foods chart to help identify foods that are good for you (GO), food that you can eat in moderation (SLOW), and foods that should only be eaten rarely, or on special occasions (WHOA).
- Share the children’s version of the GO, SLOW, and WHOA chart—called U R What U Eat (2.3 MB)—with your family. Use it to help them understand which foods are better for them.
- Review dietary guidance
- Check out the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Published every five years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these guidelines can help you build good dietary habits that can reduce your risk of major chronic diseases.
- Explore some sample eating plans. These plans—the USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan—help you figure out how much of each food group (e.g., fruits, vegetables, grains, meats) you need to be eating each day.
- Cook smart
- Read about some easy substitutions that can help you make great recipes healthier by using lower fat or lower calorie ingredients—they’ll be better for you but will still taste great.
- Eat smaller portions
- Consider that in many cases, the amount of food that appears on your plate in a restaurant has nearly doubled over the past 20 years. And that’s affected the way we look at and serve food at home, too. Learn more about what we call “portion distortion,” and about the difference between a portion and a serving.
- Make better choices when you eat out
- Be careful when eating out, too, Just eat smaller portions and try to identify items on the menu that are lower in fat and calories. And don’t forget you can always ask for a healthier substitution.
- Know your calories
- Remember that whether they come from a soda, sweet potato, or a steak, they’re still calories. And calories count. Read more about calories from fat and sugar.