Healthy Eating

Eating healthy is good for your health!  It means following a basic eating pattern that includes:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fat-free or low fat dairy products
  • Lean proteins

To eat healthy, you may also want to eat less of some things such as:

  • Sodium (salt)
  • Added sugars
  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Refined grains and starches

Making smart food choices can help you:

  • Manage your weight
  • Lower your risk of:
    • Heart disease
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • High blood pressure
    • Some types of cancer

For the right daily amount of each food group for you go to MyPlate Plan and be sure to check out our Eating Healthy: My Plate Success videos.

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Learn more about food groups and healthy choices below.

Fruits — For vitamins, minerals, fiber and energy

Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the Fruit Group. At least half of the recommended amount of fruit should come from whole fruit, rather than 100% fruit juice.
Fruits may be:

  • Fresh
  • Frozen
  • Canned in water or juice
  • Dried
  • Whole, cut-up, pureed, or cooked.

The amount of fruit you need to eat depends on your age, sex, height, weight, and level of activity. Most people need 1-2 cups of fruit a day.  In general, 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit counts as 1 cup from the Fruit Group.

Vegetables — For vitamins, minerals and fiber

Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as part of the Vegetable Group.

Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed.

Vegetables are organized into 5 smaller groups:

  • Dark green
  • Red and orange
  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Starchy
  • Other vegetables

The amount of vegetables you need to eat depends on your age, sex, height, weight, and level of activity. Most people need 2-4 cups a day. 

In general, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy salad greens counts as 1 cup from the Vegetable Group.

Grains — For energy, vitamins, minerals and fiber (if whole grain)

Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain is a grain product.
Bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, grits, and tortillas are examples of grain products.
Foods such as popcorn, rice, and oatmeal are also included in the Grains Group.

Grains are divided into 2 smaller groups:

  • Whole grains
  • Refined grains

Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel — the bran outside, germ at one end, and endosperm inside.

Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran, germ, and some nutrients.  

In general, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal can be considered as 1 ounce-equivalent from the Grains Group. 

At least half of your grains should be whole.

Protein Foods — For maintaining body tissues

All foods made from seafood; meat, poultry, and eggs; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy are part of the Protein Foods Group.
Beans, peas, and lentils are also part of the Vegetable Group.

Choose a wide variety of protein foods to get more of the nutrients your body needs. 
Meat and poultry choices should be lean or low-fat.
Choose seafood options that are higher in omega-3s such as salmon, anchovies, and trout.

Vegetarian options in the Protein Foods Group include beans, peas, and lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

Most adults get the needed 5-7 ounces of protein a day, but need to choose leaner types of meat and poultry. 

In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds counts as 1 ounce from the Protein Foods Group.

Dairy Foods — For energy and maintaining body tissues, bones and teeth

Milk and foods made out of milk such as yogurt and cheese are part of the Dairy Group.
Also plant based milks that have calcium and protein such as soy milk are considered part of this group.

Choose low fat or fat free dairy to keep the amount of saturated fat down.

The amount of dairy foods you need in a day varies by age but most adults need 3 cups a day.

In general, 1 cup of milk, yogurt, or soy milk, or 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese can be considered as 1 cup from the Dairy Group.

Healthy Snacking — For extra energy

Not everybody needs to snack but some people need extra energy or something to tie them over until the next meal.

Snacking is a chance to add some fruits and vegetables to your day.

Most healthier snacks include a protein and a fruit or vegetable.
Some examples are:

  • Low fat yogurt with fruit
  • 1 Stick of string cheese with a small handful of dry fruit
  • Vegetable sticks with hummus
  • An apple with peanut butter
Water —For overall health

Getting enough water every day is good for your health. Water helps your body:

  • Keep a normal temperature
  • Lubricate and cushion joints
  • Protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues
  • Get rid of wastes

In general, most people should try to drink about 64 ounces, or 8 cups, of water a day. 
You may need a little more or less depending on your size, activity level, and weather. 

Tips to drink more water:

  • Carry a water bottle with you and refill it during the day.
  • Choose water over sugary drinks.
  • Opt for water when eating out.
  • Add a wedge of lime or lemon to your water. This can help improve the taste and help you drink more.