How do I choose healthy, nutritious foods?

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Answered by: Lindsay, An Expert in the Choose the Right Foods Category
When aiming for optimal health and disease-prevention, it is importance to choose healthy, nutritious foods in your daily life. There are several different types of foods, including whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts, all of which are included in a healthy diet. This guide will help you choose the best options.

When shopping for grains, it is best to look for whole grains. Whole grains include whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals, as well as brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, grits, and popcorn. To discover if your bread, pasta, or cereal is a whole grain product, you must read the list of ingredients; if the first ingredient is "whole grain" or "whole wheat", that product is a whole grain food. Whole grain foods contain the bran of the grain, which provides fiber. The general recommendation for fiber is 25-30 grams per day. Examples of one serving of grains: a slice of bread, 1 cup of cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta. The USDA recommends 6-9 servings of grains per day.

Lean meats are important sources of protein. Lean meats include chicken, turkey, and fish. It is also possible to find lean cuts of red meat; these will be labeled as 75-80% lean. Generally, a serving of meat is 2-3 oz. Eggs are another good source of protein. One egg is one serving. It is recommended that you consume no more than one egg yolk per day, so egg whites can be used as a lower-fat and lower-cholesterol option.

Low-fat dairy products, including skim or 1% milk, low-fat cheese and cottage cheese, and yogurt, are good sources of calcium. It is recommended that you consume 3 servings of calcium-rich foods per day. A serving is 1 cup of milk or yogurt or 2 oz. of cheese. People with lactose-intolerance have a variety of calcium-fortified, non-dairy options to choose from, including soy milk or rice milk.

The USDA recommends eating 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. An example of a serving size of vegetables is 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 2 cups of raw, leafy greens. A serving size of fruit is generally 1 cup of fresh fruit or 1/2 cup of dried fruit. Fruits and vegetables are important for providing essential vitamins and nutrients to your diet. Certain starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, and peas, are actually considered grains and do not contribute to your daily servings of vegetables.

Beans and nuts are also healthy additions to your diet. beans are a "superfood" in that they provide protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are somewhat considered grains, proteins, and vegetables all in one! One-fourth of a cup of beans is one serving. Nuts are also a "superfood" in that they provide protein and healthy, unsaturated fat, which is good for your heart. Look for unsalted nuts or unsalted peanut butter.

A healthy diet includes a variety of foods, including whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts. When shopping, it is important to choose healthy, nutritious foods to meet all of your health needs. Now that you have this knowledge, you are ready to go shopping!


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