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Eating For Better Health

These guidelines contain today’s best scientific advice on selection of foods for promoting health, preventing disease and maintaining or losing weight. These are general guidelines that apply to most healthy people. If you have a chronic disease or other special nutritional needs, contact a registered dietitian for specific recommendations.

Aim for Fitness

  • Maintain or work toward a healthy weight.
  • Be physically active every day—return fun and play to your life. Get moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week.
  • Healthy eating provides the sustained energy you need to be physically active.
  • Learn to manage your stress with exercise, healthy eating, relaxation, and good coping skills.

Build Healthy Eating Habits

photo: family having a healthy fruit snack
  • Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark green, red, and orange vegetables (3 or more servings a day).
  • Eat a variety of fruits (2 or more servings a day).
  • Eat whole-grain, high-fiber breads and cereals (3 to 6 servings a day). Reduce or eliminate refined or processed carbohydrates; most of the grains in your diet should be whole grains.
  • Drink fat-free or low-fat milk and eat low-fat dairy products.
  • Choose from a variety of low-fat sources of protein — including eggs, beans, poultry without skin, seafood, lean meats, unsalted nuts, seeds, and soy products. If you eat meat, eat white meat at least four times more often than red meat.
  • Reduce intake of saturated fats and trans-fats (such as partially hydrogenated oil) as much as possible.
  • Use vegetable oils (like olive or canola oil) instead of solid fats.
  • Reduce daily intake of salt or sodium. Reduce to less than 1,500 mg. per day if you are older than 50, or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
  • Restrict or eliminate "junk food" — foods that contain refined white flour, solid fats or trans fats, added sugars, and are high in sodium.
  • Restrict or eliminate sodas and other sugar-added drinks that are high in calories and contain few or no nutrients.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. Drink only when it doesn't put you or anyone else at risk.

To Lose Weight

  • Reduce the number of calories you eat daily. Eat smaller portions—don't "upsize" your meals at fast food restaurants.
  • Follow the dietary guidelines above.
  • Eliminate all sugar-added drinks from your diet. You can drink 100% fruit juice, unsweetened, but limit servings to one or two a day. Drink more water.
  • Decrease the amount of time spent in sedentary activities, especially watching television.  Use your screen-free time working on hobbies, house cleaning, yard work, or engaging in fun activities.
  • Get moderate physical activity (such as walking, bicycling, swimming, or using aerobic exercise machines) for 30 to 60 minutes a day, at least five days a week.
  • Do muscle strengthening and toning exercises at least 2 or 3 days a week.
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For more information about the Dietary Guidelines and the latest nutrition information, visit the U.S. Government's Nutrition Information portal.

Also visit the home page for our 5-2-1-Almost None educational campaign about nutrition and physical activity.

These tips for healthy eating are based on recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, a publication of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, and The Harvard Diet.

Last Updated: Monday March 10 2014
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