Healthy eating is all about having a balanced diet. Eating from each of the food groups with an emphasis on variety and balance is the best way to reap the most health benefits from your diet. Below are some basic tips for eating for your health.
The key to a balanced diet is working more food groups into your day. A simple rule of thumb is to be sure you include at least 3 food groups for each meal you eat. This is not only a great tip for getting more nutrients from your meals, but can also help to keep you satisfied as you’ll likely be including a lean protein or source of fiber in your meal to keep you full longer.
Nutrition Facts for a Balanced Diet
This food group provides excellent energy for our body and mind. Be sure to make at least 50% of your grains whole to provide your body with sources of fiber, B-vitamins, iron rich foods and magnesium. Below are some examples of whole grains:
• Brown Rice
• OatmealIf you need ideas for gluten free grains, check our Gluten Allergy & Wheat Allergy section.
A diet with rich in this food group may reduce heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain cancers. Vegetables are an excellent low calorie source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Aim for at least 2-3 servings of fresh or frozen veggies per day and choose a variety of colors to include a range of antioxidants which have been shown to play a role in chronic disease and cancer prevention. Below are some colorful examples of vegetables:
• Starchy vegetables such as corn, potatoes and green peas
• Red & orange options such as pumpkin, carrots and red bell peppers
Like vegetables, this food group is a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Fruits provide our bodies with a natural source of potassium for healthy blood pressure as well as vitamin C which plays an important role in immune health. Aim for at least 2-3 servings of fresh, frozen, dried or freeze-dried fruits per day with an emphasis on variety. Below are some examples of fruits to try:
• Foods with Vitamin C include oranges, lemons and mango
• Sources of potassium include bananas, cantaloupe and peaches
Milk, cheese and yogurt fill this food group and provide our bodies with a great source of protein, calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D. A diet including dairy has been shown to improve bone health and decrease risk of osteoporosis. For dairy products it’s important to choose low fat or skim options for limiting your intake of saturated fat, a fat that when eaten in excess can increase bad, LDL cholesterol levels. If you are allergic to milk protein or avoid dairy, there are many suitable alternatives for supplementing your diet .
Below are a few examples of low fat dairy to include into your day:
• Low fat or fat free yogurts
• Low fat cheese such as cheddar, feta, Swiss or mozzarellaIf you have a dairy allergy, you can find out more ideas in our Dairy Allergy section.
This group refers to a variety of foods with protein such as meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts.
Protein is a major nutrient that can serve as a building block for things like bones, muscle and skin. The protein group also provides the body with a great source of B-vitamins which help in the metabolism cycle and iron for carrying oxygen in the blood.
It’s important to choose animal proteins that are lower in saturated fat most often such as poultry and fish for heart health. Also, vary your proteins with non-animal based options such as beans and nuts for a source of fiber and heart healthy-fats into the diet.
Below are a few examples of sources of protein:
• Beans and peas – examples include black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas and chickpeas, these plant sources of protein are lower calorie, higher fiber options to work into the diet as an animal-protein alternative.
• Nuts and seeds- these protein foods are a great source of heart healthy fats to include in the diet. Be sure to keep with the serving sizes for these higher calorie options to keep within your daily needs. Examples include walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds and pecans. For those with nut allergies, the nutrients can be easily substituted in the diet.
• Eggs- Great sources of choline, vitamin D (in the yolk), lutein and protein this is a nutrient dense option to work into meals as desired. If you’re egg allergic, these nutrients can easily be made up for with a balanced diet.
More vegan proteins can be found in our Vegan section.
Good snacks play an essential role in healthy eating. First, it’s a great opportunity for including another nutrient-dense food into your day such as a whole grain, lean protein, low fat dairy or fruit/vegetable. Second, it can be an excellent tool for getting to or staying at a healthy weight. By fitting some of the healthiest snacks in between your meals, you can avoid reaching the point of being overly hungry and still be healthy.
Here are some nutrition facts for healthy snacking:
• Keep to the serving sizes with 100 calorie snacks as a goal. This will give you enough to stay satisfied, without going over your daily calorie needs.
• Try to include a source of fiber through whole grains, fruits and vegetables to help stay full longer from your in-between meal bite.
• Sources of protein can be great to include in your snack as well to satisfy your hunger quickly. Try things such as walnuts, sunflower seeds, nut butters or low fat dairy or dairy alternative.
• Plan your snacks ahead of time. Think of your nutrition goals before hitting the grocery store and plan 2-3 options for 100 calorie snacks for the week to keep on your plan for health. This will help you to avoid choosing snacks at the last minute on a hungry stomach which is when cravings (and desperation!) can take over and lead to less-healthy choices.