Guide to Healthy Eating

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Healthy eating is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Good nutrition combined with regular physical activity can promote good health. Information about diet, nutrition, and healthy eating can be helpful, especially when the source of this information is up-to-date and reliable.

In some cases, nutrition information is overwhelming and even contradictory. For example, should fish be eaten for the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids? Or should it be avoided because of the mercury that it may contain?

In the United States, government dietary recommendations have changed significantly over the last 10 years—from the Food Groups, to the Food Guide Pyramid, to MyPyramid, and in 2010, to Choose MyPlate. Books and articles about healthy eating are published regularly, often written by experts with impressive credentials. Unfortunately, these diet and nutrition books may result in confusion about how to maintain a healthy weight through diet and physical activity.

Nutrition may seem complicated, but following basic guidelines can increase the chances for a healthy life and can help lower the risk for developing cardiovascular disease, many types of cancers, and other conditions, such as diabetes.

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Basic dietary guidelines include the following:

  • Every day, eat plenty of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole grains (e.g., 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal)
  • For protein, choose from poultry (skin removed), fish, and lean meats; 2-3 times per week, replace meat with beans, lentils, nuts, or tofu
  • Limit saturated fats (fats from animal sources), refined grains (e.g., white bread, white rice, pasta), and sweets (including sodas and sweetened juices)
  • Minimize or eliminate trans fats (hydrogenated oils)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2014, 13 percent of calories consumed by the average American adult each day come from added sugar—and one-third of these calories are from soft drinks.

A qualified health care provider, licensed dietician, or nutritionist can be the best source for reliable information about good nutrition and can provide additional information about calcium sources, the risks and benefits of alcohol consumption, and special dietary guidelines for certain health conditions.

Nutrition Information for People with Specific Health Conditions

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Feb 2007

Last Modified: 15 Mar 2016