Eating properly may seem like an impossible goal to meet, but there are certain guidelines that can help you achieve it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "good nutrition is really about constantly choosing healthy foods and beverages." With healthy eating patterns, it's possible to enjoy foods and beverages that reflect your preferences, cultural traditions, and budget.
Healthy eating emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, and protein. Dairy recommendations include low-fat or fat-free milk, lactose-free milk, and fortified soy beverages. The CDC claims that other plant-based beverages do not have the same nutritional properties as animal milk and soy drinks. Protein recommendations include: seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), soy products, nuts, and seeds.
Most people in the United States need to adjust their eating patterns to increase their intake of dietary fiber, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020 – 2025.
The role of fiber in our diet
The CDC claims that fiber helps maintain digestive health and keep us feeling full longer. It also helps control blood sugar and lowers cholesterol levels. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are good sources of fiber.
To bump up fiber, try this:
Slice up raw vegetables to use as quick snacks. Storing celery and carrots in water in the refrigerator will keep them crisp longer.
Start your day off with a whole grain cereal like oatmeal or food made with bulgur or teff. For even more fiber, top your cereal with berries, pumpkin seeds, or almonds.
Add half a cup of beans or lentils to your salad to add fiber, texture, and flavor.
Enjoy whole fruit—maybe a pear, apple, melon slice or passion fruit—with a meal or as dessert.
Increase calcium and vitamin D intake
Calcium and vitamin D work together to promote optimal bone health. Our bodies can make vitamin D from sunshine, but some individuals may have difficulty producing enough vitamin D, and too much sun exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer. While very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, several foods and beverages are fortified with this essential nutrient.
Limit added sugars
Too much added sugar in your diet can contribute to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Some foods such as fruit and milk contain natural sugars. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods and drinks when they are processed or prepared. Added sugars have many different names, such as cane juice, corn syrup, dextrose, and fructose. Table sugar, maple syrup, and honey are also considered added sugars. Sugary drinks are a common source of added sugars.
Aim for a Variety of Colors
A good practice is to aim for a variety of colors on your plate. Fruits and vegetables like dark, leafy greens, oranges, and tomatoes—even fresh herbs—are loaded with vitamins, fiber, and minerals.
Sprinkle fresh herbs over a salad or whole wheat pasta.
Make a red sauce with fresh tomatoes (or canned tomatoes with low sodium or no salt added), fresh herbs, and spices.
Add diced veggies—like peppers, broccoli, or onions—to stews and omelets to give them a boost of color and nutrients.
Top low-fat, unsweetened yogurt with your favorite fruit.