Healthy Eating

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    Healthy Eating, Adult

    Healthy Eating, Adult

    Healthy eating may help you get and keep a healthy body weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and live a long and productive life. It is important to follow a healthy eating pattern. Your nutritional and calorie needs should be met mainly by different nutrient-rich foods.

    What are tips for following this plan?

    Reading food labels

    • Read labels and choose the following:
      • Reduced or low sodium products.
      • Juices with 100% fruit juice.
      • Foods with low saturated fats (<3 g per serving) and high polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
      • Foods with whole grains, such as whole wheat, cracked wheat, brown rice, and wild rice.
      • Whole grains that are fortified with folic acid. This is recommended for females who are pregnant or who want to become pregnant.
    • Read labels and do not eat or drink the following:
      • Foods or drinks with added sugars. These include foods that contain brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, trehalose, or turbinado sugar.
        • Limit your intake of added sugars to less than 10% of your total daily calories. Do not eat more than the following amounts of added sugar per day:
          • 6 teaspoons (25 g) for females.
          • 9 teaspoons (38 g) for males.
      • Foods that contain processed or refined starches and grains.
      • Refined grain products, such as white flour, degermed cornmeal, white bread, and white rice.


    • Choose nutrient-rich snacks, such as vegetables, whole fruits, and nuts. Avoid high-calorie and high-sugar snacks, such as potato chips, fruit snacks, and candy.
    • Use oil-based dressings and spreads on foods instead of solid fats such as butter, margarine, sour cream, or cream cheese.
    • Limit pre-made sauces, mixes, and "instant" products such as flavored rice, instant noodles, and ready-made pasta.
    • Try more plant-protein sources, such as tofu, tempeh, black beans, edamame, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
    • Explore eating plans such as the Mediterranean diet or vegetarian diet.
    • Try heart-healthy dips made with beans and healthy fats like hummus and guacamole. Vegetables go great with these.


    • Use oil to sauté or stir-fry foods instead of solid fats such as butter, margarine, or lard.
    • Try baking, boiling, grilling, or broiling instead of frying.
    • Remove the fatty part of meats before cooking.
    • Steam vegetables in water or broth.

    Meal planning

    A plate with examples of foods in a healthy diet.
    • At meals, imagine dividing your plate into fourths:
      • One-half of your plate is fruits and vegetables.
      • One-fourth of your plate is whole grains.
      • One-fourth of your plate is protein, especially lean meats, poultry, eggs, tofu, beans, or nuts.
    • Include low-fat dairy as part of your daily diet.


    • Choose healthy options in all settings, including home, work, school, restaurants, or stores.
    • Prepare your food safely:
      • Wash your hands after handling raw meats.
      • Where you prepare food, keep surfaces clean by regularly washing with hot, soapy water.
      • Keep raw meats separate from ready-to-eat foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
      • Cook seafood, meat, poultry, and eggs to the recommended temperature. Get a food thermometer.
      • Store foods at safe temperatures. In general:
        • Keep cold foods at 40°F (4.4°C) or below.
        • Keep hot foods at 140°F (60°C) or above.
        • Keep your freezer at 0°F (-17.8°C) or below.
        • Foods are not safe to eat if they have been between the temperatures of 40–140°F (4.4–60°C) for more than 2 hours.

    What foods should I eat?


    Aim to eat 1½–2½ cups of fresh, canned (in natural juice), or frozen fruits each day. One cup of fruit equals 1 small apple, 1 large banana, 8 large strawberries, 1 cup (237 g) canned fruit, ½ cup (82 g) dried fruit, or 1 cup (240 mL) 100% juice.


    Aim to eat 2–4 cups of fresh and frozen vegetables each day, including different varieties and colors. One cup of vegetables equals 1 cup (91 g) broccoli or cauliflower florets, 2 medium carrots, 2 cups (150 g) raw, leafy greens, 1 large tomato, 1 large bell pepper, 1 large sweet potato, or 1 medium white potato.


    Aim to eat 5–10 ounce-equivalents of whole grains each day. Examples of 1 ounce-equivalent of grains include 1 slice of bread, 1 cup (40 g) ready-to-eat cereal, 3 cups (24 g) popcorn, or ½ cup (93 g) cooked rice.

    Meats and other proteins

    Try to eat 5–7 ounce-equivalents of protein each day. Examples of 1 ounce-equivalent of protein include 1 egg, ½ oz nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios, or 7 walnut halves), 1/4 cup (90 g) cooked beans, 6 tablespoons (90 g) hummus or 1 tablespoon (16 g) peanut butter. A cut of meat or fish that is the size of a deck of cards is about 3–4 ounce-equivalents (85 g).
    • Of the protein you eat each week, try to have at least 8 sounce (227 g) of seafood. This is about 2 servings per week. This includes salmon, trout, herring, sardines, and anchovies.


    Aim to eat 3 cup-equivalents of fat-free or low-fat dairy each day. Examples of 1 cup-equivalent of dairy include 1 cup (240 mL) milk, 8 ounces (250 g) yogurt, 1½ ounces (44 g) natural cheese, or 1 cup (240 mL) fortified soy milk.

    Fats and oils

    • Aim for about 5 teaspoons (21 g) of fats and oils per day. Choose monounsaturated fats, such as canola and olive oils, mayonnaise made with olive oil or avocado oil, avocados, peanut butter, and most nuts, or polyunsaturated fats, such as sunflower, corn, and soybean oils, walnuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and flaxseed.


    • Aim for 6 eight-ounce glasses of water per day. Limit coffee to 3–5 eight-ounce cups per day.
    • Limit caffeinated beverages that have added calories, such as soda and energy drinks.
    • If you drink alcohol:
      • Limit how much you have to:
        • 0–1 drink a day if you are female.
        • 0–2 drinks a day if you are male.
      • Know how much alcohol is in your drink. In the U.S., one drink is one 12 oz bottle of beer (355 mL), one 5 oz glass of wine (148 mL), or one 1½ oz glass of hard liquor (44 mL).

    Seasoning and other foods

    • Try not to add too much salt to your food. Try using herbs and spices instead of salt.
    • Try not to add sugar to food.

    This information is based on U.S. nutrition guidelines. To learn more, visit Exact amounts may vary. You may need different amounts.

    This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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