With so many fad diets in the news, it’s easy to lose sight of what healthy eating looks like. But there’s really no mystery. Good nutrition means a long-term commitment to these daily habits:

  • Taking reasonably sized portions. Super-sized servings often lead to super-sized people. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to control the amount of food you put on your plate.
  • Making food choices based on sound nutrition principles. Use the 6 basic building blocks (outlined below) to help you get the most good from the food you eat.

Basic Nutritional Building Blocks

Choose unsaturated fats and oils. You need fat in your diet - but some types are healthier than others. Look for foods that are higher in unsaturated fats and lower in saturated fat or hydrogenated fat (called trans fat). Try olive, canola, corn, and safflower oils. Salmon and tuna also contain healthy fats.

Include more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetable are great sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They’re also rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that protect your cells from damage - like “rust-proofing” for your body. Enjoy a variety: spinach, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, apples, berries, melons, and citrus fruits.

Eat whole grains and other unrefined starches. Choose whole grains, which contain more dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Limit your intake of refined starches like white bread, white pasta, and instant white rice. Try whole grain wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, barley, and cornmeal.

Choose heart-healthy proteins. Unfortunately, many sources of protein - such as red meat and pork - are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Limit your intake of these, and learn to choose the leanest cuts. Also, choose other heart healthy plant or animal proteins. Good examples are beans, soy products, nuts, and seeds - plus fish, shellfish, and lean poultry.

Select low-fat dairy products. Dairy products are a good source of calcium, protein, and vitamins A and D. However, some are high in fat and cholesterol. Sticking to low-fat dairy products will give you the same nutritional benefits without the drawbacks. Select 1% milk, low-fat cheeses and yogurts, and low-fat powdered milk.

Limit your salt intake. Most Americans take in almost 3 to 4 times the amount of sodium (salt) they need. Since nearly every food we eat contains some sodium, you’ll need to read food labels closely to get salt intake under control. Choose unprocessed foods, and use spices to season meals without adding salt. And take the salt shaker off the table!