A nutritious diet can help you achieve a healthy weight and reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Eating a balanced diet is so important, but committing to what's good for you can be confusing. Do you know that the five food groups recommended today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy? Do you know how much of each of these foods you should have in your daily diet? Learn some of the basics to create a healthier eating style.
All food and beverage choices matter
Food fuels your body and determines not just your weight but your health and mood. Start by focusing on what's on your plate and in your glass at each meal.
Half your plate should be fruits and vegetables. Strive for a variety of colors-a rainbow of orange, green, and purple could be carrots, spinach, and grapes. They're the best source of vitamins and minerals your body needs for optimal physical and mental health, but no one option has all the nutrients you need. Oranges, grapefruits, and broccoli contain antioxidants that help prevent cancer. Red peppers have vitamin A, and strawberries vitamin C, both of which are needed for eye health. Avocados and kiwis have vitamin E, which is important for healthy skin and hair.
Half your plate should be grains and proteins. Aim for mainly whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal. Proteins should be small servings of lean poultry, fish, and meat—or, for vegetarians, beans, peas, and nuts. Proteins build and repair muscle, bone, blood, and skin.
Dairy. Choose skim or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese for good sources of protein and calcium, which are essential to body processes such as blood clotting and nervous system function. The average adult should consume three servings from the dairy group each day; portions differ depending on your age.
Water is always your body's best hydrator. Instead of taking in the empty calories found in sodas and juice drinks, try green tea-studies have shown it contains antioxidants and can improve blood flow, lower cholesterol, and even help stabilize blood sugar.
Food labels are your friend
While fresh foods are ideal, much of our food comes in packages. But even buying them, you can be smart. The U.S. government requires Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods, so refer to them to help make healthy choices. Do not rely on front-package wording such as low fat, low sodium, or low sugar. Choose foods with Nutrition Facts that accurately show that the product is:
- Counting toward your vitamin needs
If you are already eating healthy, keep up the good work. If not, remember that making small changes slowly will be more successful than trying to change everything at once.
The information above was provided to the JHU Benefits Office by CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.