Hungry for ways to eat well and stay healthy? When you learn how to choose your food wisely, you’ll find yourself with increased energy, improved mood, better weight control, and a strong line of defense against many diseases.

The best part? It’s simple to do!

Start with your plate
Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with a serving of protein and the last quarter with whole grains.

Make each bite count
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can help you make smart food choices for a healthier life.

How much should I eat?
The amount you should eat depends on your age, activity level, and whether you’re trying to gain, maintain, or lose weight. The USDA’s Choose MyPlate can help you pick the foods and amounts that are right for you. Click here for a downloadable MyPlate flyer. Click here for a MyPlate Nutrition from A to Z guide.

Look for the nutrition facts label on packaged foods to tell you how many calories, fat grams, and other nutrients are in each serving of food.

USDA Recommendations
Aim to follow these key USDA recommendations each day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet:

  • Balance your calories.
    Pay attention to actual portion sizes. A serving may be less than you think, and many of us are eating more calories than we realize.
  • Drink more water.
    Choose water instead of sugary drinks. You might be surprised how much sugar is in your favorite sodas and juices.
  • Vary your veggies.
    Get 5 servings of colorful veggies. A serving equals 1/2 cup of most raw or cooked vegetables, 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, or 6 ounces of vegetable juice.
  • Focus on fruits.
    Choose 3 servings of fresh, frozen, or dried fruits. A serving is 1 small piece of fruit, 1 cup of berries or melon, 1/2 cup of other fruit (fresh, frozen, or canned without added sugar), or 1/4 cup of dried fruit.
  • Dig into dairy.
    Eat 3 servings a day of low-fat or nonfat dairy, such as milk, cheese or yogurt. A serving is 8 ounces of milk, 1 cup of yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese (about the size of 2 dice). If you don’t or can’t drink milk, choose lactose-free products (such as soy milk and soy yogurt). Find out if you’re getting enough calcium in your diet.
  • Get a helping of whole grains.
    Eat 6 servings of grains. At least half the grains you eat should be unrefined, whole grains (such as whole wheat breads, whole-grain cereal, and brown rice). A serving is 1 slice of bread, 1 ounce dry cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked pasta, rice, or cereal.
  • Go lean with protein.
    Eat 5 1/2 ounces of lean meat, chicken, or fish. You can also serve up the equivalent amount of beans, tofu, or other protein-rich alternatives to meat.
  • Chew the right fats.
    Choose foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol and avoid trans fat (also called partially hydrogenated oil). Most of the fats you eat should be plant-based, found in olive or canola oil, nuts, and seeds. Keep total fat intake between 20 and 35 percent of your total daily calories.
  • Be selective about sugar.
    Look for foods and beverages low in added sugar. Other words for sugar you might see on food labels include sucrose, glucose, corn syrup, and fructose.
  • Reduce sodium and increase potassium.
    Eating less than 2,300 mg of sodium (about 1 teaspoon of salt) per day may reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Foods high in potassium (such as potatoes, beans, tomato products, and bananas) balance some of sodium’s effects on blood pressure. Adults 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should eat no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.
    Those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation — up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Prevent food poisoning.
    Wash your hands after handling raw foods to avoid spreading bacteria and germs. Keep raw meat away from other foods, and always cook meats to the proper internal temperature. Be sure to keep food surfaces (counters, dishes, cutting boards) clean.

Information courtesy of Kaiser Permanente.