Eat Healthy

The Basics
A healthy diet can help protect you from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Take Action!
To save time, rinse and chop vegetables the day before you will need them.

Start Today: Small Steps

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The Basics

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Eating healthy means following a healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of nutritious foods and drinks. It also means getting the number of calories that’s right for you (not eating too much or too little).

Use your calories to eat a variety of healthy foods.

To eat healthy, be sure to choose:

Limit certain nutrients and ingredients.

Sodium (salt)

Sodium is found in table salt – but most of the sodium we eat comes from packaged food or food that's prepared in restaurants.

Added sugars

Added sugars include syrups and sweeteners that manufacturers add to products like sodas, yogurt, and cereals ­– as well as things you add, like sugar in your coffee.

Saturated fats

Saturated fats come from animal products like cheese, fatty meats and poultry, whole milk, butter, and many sweets and snack foods. Some plant products like palm and coconut oils also have saturated fats.

Refined grains and starches

Refined grains and starches are in foods like cookies, white bread, and some snack foods.

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

A healthy eating pattern can help keep you healthy.

Eating healthy is good for your overall health – and there are many ways to do it.

Making smart food choices can also help you manage your weight and lower your risk for certain chronic (long-term) diseases.

When you eat healthy, you can reduce your risk for:

Learn more about why eating healthy is important.


Take Action!

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Making small changes to your eating habits can make a big difference for your health over time. 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:

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

Shop smart at the grocery store.

The next time you go food shopping:

Use these tips to make healthy choices:

Read the Nutrition Facts label.

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

First, look at the serving size and the number of servings per package – there may be more than 1 serving!

Then check out the calories. Calories tell you how much energy is in 1 serving of a food. In general:

To stay at a healthy weight, you need to balance the calories you eat and drink with the calories you burn. Learn more about watching your weight.

Next, look at the percent Daily Value (% DV) column. The DV shows you if a food is higher or lower in certain nutrients. Look for foods that are:

You can also use the DV to compare food products. Just be sure to check and see if the serving size is the same.

The picture below shows an example of a Nutrition Facts label.

Nutrition Facts Label

To learn more about the Nutrition Facts label:

Be a healthy family.

Parents and caregivers are important role models for healthy eating. You can teach kids how to choose and prepare healthy snacks and meals.

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:

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 food choices, ask your doctor for help. Your doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian. A registered dietitian is a health professional who helps people with healthy eating.

What about cost?

Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, most health plans must cover diet counseling 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 company 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 or a registered dietitian about how to stay healthy. If you need to follow a special diet, check out these websites:


Start Today: Small Steps

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