U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Eat Healthy

Content last updated on:
November 25, 2014

The Basics

To be healthy, your body needs to get enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Eating healthy means getting plenty of:

  • Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products
  • Seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, seeds, and nuts

Eating healthy also means limiting:

  • 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.
  • Refined grains – Food products with refined grains include white bread, noodles, white rice, and flour tortillas.

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

A healthy diet can help you be strong and active.
Eating healthy is good for your overall health. Making smart food choices can also help you manage your weight and lower your risk for certain diseases.

When you eat healthy foods (and limit unhealthy foods), you can reduce your risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Some types of cancer
  • Bone loss (osteoporosis)

Learn more about why eating healthy is important.

Take Action!

Take Action!

Making small changes to your eating habits can make a big difference for your health. Here are some tips and tools you can use to get started.

Keep a food diary.
Knowing what you eat now will help you figure out what you want to change. Print this food diary [PDF - 36 KB] and write down:

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

For example, you might write something like:
Tuesday 3:30 pm, 2 chocolate chip cookies, at work with Mary, feeling stressed

Try this SuperTracker tool to plan and track your diet and physical activity.

Plan ahead to save time cooking.
Planning your meals ahead of time can make it easier to eat healthy when you are busy. Try these 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.
Check out these resources to get ideas:

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

Use this healthy foods checklist to make your shopping list.

Read the Nutrition Facts label.
Understanding the Nutrition Facts label on food packages can help you make healthy choices.

  • 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.
Nutrition Facts Label
Click the picture above for more about how to read a Nutrition Facts label.

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

Be a healthy family.
Parents and caregivers are important role models for healthy eating. You can teach kids how to choose and prepare healthy foods.

If 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.
You can make smart food choices wherever you are – at work, in your favorite restaurant, or out running errands. Try these tips for eating healthy even when you are away from home:

  • At lunch, have a sandwich on whole-grain bread.
  • Drink fat-free or low-fat milk, water, or 100% fruit juice.
  • In a restaurant, choose dishes that are steamed, broiled, or grilled instead of fried.
  • On a long drive or shopping trip, pack fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, or low-fat string cheese sticks to snack on.

Get more tips for eating healthy when dining out.

If you are worried about your eating habits, 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 type 2 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 HealthCare.gov.

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 to follow a special diet, check out these Web sites:

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