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A 10-Point Guide to Healthy Meals

A 10-Point Guide to Healthy Meals

Most everyone knows a healthy diet is important for a healthy body. But eating the right foods every day might be easier said than done–especially with so much tempting junk food available! If you’re looking to improve your diet, start by making some small changes and learning the keys to healthy eating.

Try to include all the major food groups–fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein–as part of your meals and snacks daily. You’ll also want to limit added sugars, saturated fat and sodium. For further guidance, check out these 10 tips from ChooseMyPlate.gov for building healthy meals and meeting your eating needs throughout the day:

1. Make half your plate veggies and fruits.

Vegetables and fruits are full of nutrients that support good health. Choose fruits and red, orange and dark-green vegetables, such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli.

2. Include whole grains.

Aim to make at least half your grains whole grains. Look for food labels indicating the product is 100-percent whole grain or whole wheat. Whole grains provide more nutrients, including fiber, than refined grains do.

3. Don’t forget the dairy.

Complete your meal with a cup of fat-free or low-fat milk. You’ll get the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk but fewer calories. Don’t drink milk? Try drinking soymilk or include low-fat yogurt in your meal or snack.

4. Add lean protein.

Choose proteins such as lean beef, pork, chicken or turkey, as well as eggs, nuts, beans or tofu. Twice a week, try to make seafood the protein on your plate.

5. Avoid extra fat.

Using heavy gravies or sauces will add fat and calories to otherwise healthy choices. Try steamed broccoli with a sprinkling of low-fat parmesan cheese or a squeeze of lemon.

6. Get creative in the kitchen. Whether you’re making a sandwich, stir-fry or casserole, find ways to make them healthier. Try using less meat and cheese, which can be higher in saturated fat and sodium, and including more veggies that add new flavors and textures to your meals.

7. Take control of your food.

Eat at home more often so you know exactly what you’re eating. If you eat out, check and compare the nutrition information. Choose options that are lower in calories, saturated fat and sodium.

8. Try new foods.

Keep it interesting by picking out new foods you’ve never tried before, such as mango, lentils, quinoa, kale or sardines. You may find a new favorite! Trade fun and tasty recipes with friends, or find some online.

9. Satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way.

Indulge in a naturally sweet dessert dish—fruit! Serve a fresh fruit salad or a fruit parfait made with yogurt. For a hot dessert, bake apples and top them with cinnamon.

10. Remember that everything you eat and drink matters.

The right mix of foods in your meals and snacks can help you be healthier now and into the future. Small, practical changes in how you eat can improve your diet and add up to big wins over time.