The good news about healthy eating is that most nutrition experts now agree on a common set of nutrition guidelines that are important for good health. Following the guidelines below will help you maintain a healthy weight, have a healthy heart, avoid hypertension, and prevent diabetes. And if you have a chronic disease, eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight can help you to better manage your condition.
Eat your fruits and veggies
Fruits and veggies contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that can help you maintain a healthy heart, memory function, and vision health, all while lowering your risk for some forms of cancer. And including at least five cups per day in your meals or snacks can help to control your weight by filling up on healthy calories.
Reduce sodium (salt) intake
Eating too much sodium may cause you to retain fluids and increase your blood pressure.
You can reduce sodium by:
- Limiting use of table and seasoning salts.
- Trying combinations of herbs and spices instead of salt.
- Eating fewer processed foods. Sodium is used to preserve food, so more processed foods tend to contain more sodium. Watch out for canned and instant soups, canned meats, and frozen dinners.
- Choosing snack foods wisely. Eat low-sodium or natural snacks like plain popcorn or fruit.
- Checking the nutrition label before you buy foods and avoiding those high in sodium.
For more information on delicious foods with moderate sodium, check out the website for the national Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH).
Limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
Products containing these fats may increase your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Moderate amounts of fats and oils are an important part of a healthy diet, but not all fats are the same. The federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends keeping total fat intake between 20 to 35 percent of daily calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. Read the nutrition label to check the amount and type of fat in foods.
- Consume less than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fats. The most common sources of saturated fat are meat, whole milk and dairy products, and many processed foods.
- Select Lean Meats. Try chicken, turkey, fish, and lean cuts of pork. Bake, broil, boil, steam, poach, or microwave foods instead of frying them.
- Keep intake of trans fats as low as possible. Trans fats are commonly found in processed foods made with partially hydrogenated oils. Many commercial baked goods contain transfats. The good news is that transfat content must now be listed on the nutrition label and many food producers are beginning to eliminate this harmful fat from their ingredients. So read the label, and choose a healthier option.
- Consume less than 300mg of cholesterol daily.
Drink plenty of water
Water can prevent dehydration and reduce overeating. And it’s free!
Divide your body weight (in pounds) by two. Aim to drink that many ounces of water each day. For example, someone weighing 128 pounds should drink 64 ounces (8 cups) of water daily.
The quality of Boston’s tap water is excellent. For more information, or if you have questions about lead in your water pipes, check with the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. Drinking water is a healthy habit for kids too.
Eat a variety of whole grain products daily.
Whole grains are an important source of fiber and other nutrients. Try 100% whole grain bread, whole grain ready-to-eat cereals, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta.
Find more information about eating whole grains here.
Reduce your sugar intake.
Eating too much sugar and sweets can lead to tooth decay and weight gain. Read the
label carefully and replace sugary beverages with water or low-fat milk.
How can you get started?
- Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. It will help you start your day with energy and avoid overeating later in the day.
- Learn to read food labels. They can help you choose foods that make up a healthy diet.
- Eat small portions of a variety of foods each day. If you buy food in bulk, repackage the large quantities into small, individual portions.
- Stock your refrigerator with lower calorie snacks in small packages, such as yogurt, low-fat string cheese, mini carrots, and grapes.
- Make your salads more interesting! Add nuts, seeds, and fruit.
- Get support! Take turns cooking with friends or talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about an eating plan.
- Plan a full week of menus and do all the grocery shopping at once. Shop with a list and never go to the store when you are hungry.
- Find cost-effective ways to eat healthy. Buy fruits that are in season or on sale, and buy generic brands of staples like rice and pasta in bulk.
- Decide what works best for you. Start with the most realistic changes based on your lifestyle.