“Healthy” can be an intimidating word, but if you’re
trying to keep your diet on track and stay fit, the key is eating a well-balanced
diet and understanding portion control.
What do you think of when you hear the words “healthy diet"?
You may be surprised to learn that it doesn’t necessarily mean limited
choices, boring meals or eliminating all the foods you love. For some,
eating a well-balanced diet means more variety in foods; eating more frequent,
smaller meals throughout the day; and understanding portion control.
If you have a weight loss goal, you may be tempted to try out one of the
popular fad diets—but a better place to start may be evaluating
your current eating habits and making small changes. To help guide you
on your nutritional journey, the United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA) has created
ChooseMyPlate.gov. This useful resource is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
and principles for a well-balanced diet, and recommends these tips to
create a well-balanced meal plan:
Fill ½ your plate with fruits and vegetables.
Eat 1-2 cups if fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily. Try adding fruit
to your yogurt or cereal, or eat it on top of a whole-grain waffle. Fruits
and vegetables are a low-calorie snack packed with nutrients, but it’s
important to watch portion sizes. One serving equals:
• 1 cup of fruit
• ½ cup of 100 percent fruit juice
• ¼ cup of dried fruit
• 1 cup of raw vegetables
• ½ cup of cooked vegetables
• 1 cup of raw leafy greens.
Make ½ of your grains whole.
Whole grains have more flavor than processed grains, and are packed with
nutrients like dietary fiber, B vitamins and iron. This is because the
grain kernel still has all its parts—the germ, bran and endosperm.
Refined and enriched grains, like white bread or rice, have been through
a process that removes the bran and germ—along with some of their
nutritional value. Try adding some of these whole grains to your meals:
oatmeal, brown or wild rice, whole grain breads and quinoa (a seed that
can be prepared like a grain such as rice).
Choose lean protein.
Lean meat, fish and poultry are great choices. Choose meats trimmed of
fat, such as ground round, roast (chuck, rib, rump), sirloin, steak (cubed,
flank, T-bone) or tenderloin. Another great option is fresh or frozen
fish, such as catfish, cod, flounder, halibut, salmon, tilapia, trout
or tuna. Make sure the skin is trimmed off your chicken or turkey. Legumes
like beans and peas also are great protein sources.
Choose low- or fat-free dairy.
Eat 3 servings of dairy daily:
• 1 cup of milk, yogurt or soy milk
• 1½ cups of natural cheese
• 2 cups of processed cheese.
Dairy products made with skim milk are often labeled “fat free”,
while those made with 1 percent milk are labeled “low-fat.”
Food feasts at tailgates, holiday parties, wedding receptions
and other special occasions can be tempting.
Use these tips in social settings to keep a well-balanced eating pattern and treat
Choose water, unsweetened tea or fat-free or low-fat milk to drink. (For
more tips, see
- Choose whole wheat over white bread.
- Eat your salad or veggies first to help control your hunger during meals.
- Choose foods that are grilled, steamed or broiled instead of fried or sautéed items.
- Steer clear of creamy sauces and gravies. They have more calories and fat.
- Volunteer to bring a healthy dish.
For more information, visit the USDA’s website at
www.choosemyplate.gov. If you have a specific health condition, consulting with a Registered
Dietitian for guidelines and recommendations may be helpful. You also
may call North Oaks Nutritional Services Department at