Living with a healthy lifestyle involves making many personal choices — including whether to follow a balanced diet or a healthy eating plan. But do you know how to choose a healthy eating plan? According to the Centers for Disease Control, the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020” determine that a healthy eating plan:
- Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
- Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars
- Stays within your daily calorie needs
The CDC notes that a healthy eating plan that helps you manage your weight may include a variety of foods you may not have previously considered. Some people might hear the words “healthy eating,” and immediately think that all their favorite foods will be eliminated, or that the food won’t taste good. The CDC encourages refocusing those thoughts on all the new types of foods that are in such a plan, including:
- Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Fruits ― don’t think just apples or bananas. All fresh, frozen or canned fruits are great choices to maintain a healthy eating path. It’s good to try some “exotic” fruits as well. There are also fruits such as mango, or pineapple and kiwi fruit. When your favorite fresh fruits aren’t in season, try a frozen, canned, or dried variety of fresh fruit you enjoy. It’s good to know that canned fruits may contain added sugars or syrups. When shopping, look for the canned varieties of fruit packed in water or in their own juice.
- Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Vegetables ― as with fruit, try something new, the CDC suggests. You may not like a certain vegetable prepared one way, so consider trying an alternative method, such as grilled or steamed vegetables with an herb you may not have tried yet. Vegetables can also be put in a non-stick saute’ pan, with a small amount of cooking spray. The CDC says even frozen or canned vegetables can be microwaved for a quick side dish. When trying canned vegetables, look for vegetables without added salt, butter or cream sauces. Consider going to the produce department and trying a new vegetable each week.
- Calcium-rich foods ― When someone says “eat more dairy products,” you may automatically think of a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk. But consider trying low-fat and fat-free yogurts without added sugars. Yogurt can also be a tasty dessert substitute.
- If your favorite recipe calls for frying fish or breaded chicken, try healthier variations using baking or grilling. Consider doing some web research for your favorite recipe using a method with fewer calories.
To keep on the path for a healthy eating plan, you don’t have to give up your favorite comfort foods completely, the CDC says. Healthy eating is about balance. You can eat your favorite foods — even those with a lot of calories, fat or added sugars — as long as you only do it once in a while, or balance them out with healthier foods and increased physical activity.
Here are some general tips from the CDC for a healthy eating plan using your favorite comfort foods:
- Eat them less often. If you normally eat these foods every day, cut back to once a week or once a month.
- Eat smaller amounts. If your favorite higher-calorie food is a chocolate bar, have a smaller size or only half a bar.
- Try a lower-calorie version. Use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare food differently. For example, if your macaroni and cheese recipe uses whole milk, butter, and full-fat cheese, try remaking it with non-fat milk, less butter, light cream cheese, fresh spinach, and tomatoes. Just remember to not increase your portion size.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Using resources readily available, you can figure out how to include almost any food in your healthy eating plan in a way that still helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.