woman and a girl

The food you eat can have a major impact on your health. Smart food choices help provide the energy you need to enjoy life and all it has to offer. In addition, eating smart can reduce your risk for diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain types of cancer and osteoporosis.

Making Healthier Choices

Eating smart isn’t difficult, but knowing a few basic guidelines can help you choose your foods wisely.

Go for whole grains

Have a bowl of oatmeal or ready-to-eat whole grain cereal for breakfast. Try brown rice or whole wheat pasta for lunch or dinner. Substitute whole wheat or oat flour for up to half the flour in recipes for breads, pancakes, cakes and cookies. Popcorn makes a great snack, but keep butter and salt to a minimum.

Vary your vegetables

Eat fresh vegetables in season or use frozen or canned vegetables for a quick side dish. Plan some meals around a vegetable main dish such as soup, stir fry or veggie pizza. Keep washed and cut up vegetables in a container in the refrigerator for a quick and easy snack.

Focus on fruits

Buy fresh fruits in season or try dried, frozen or canned fruits (in 100% fruit juice). Keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table, counter or in the refrigerator for a convenient snack. Fruit makes a great dessert.

Pour in the low-fat dairy

Drink fat-free milk with meals. Add fat-free or low-fat milk instead of water when making oatmeal and other hot cereals. Try low-fat or fat-free yogurt as a snack. Top casseroles, soups, stews and vegetables with shredded low-fat cheese.

Go lean on protein

Select the leanest cuts of beef (top or bottom round, top sirloin, chuck shoulder and arm roasts) and pork (loin, tenderloin, center loin and ham). Choose ground beef that is at least 90% percent lean. Remove the skin from chicken before cooking or buy skinless chicken parts. Trim away all visible fat before cooking meat and broil, grill or roast instead of frying it. Eat more fish, especially salmon and trout. Use dry beans or peas in a main dish.

When you eat smart, you can...

  • Reduce your chances of becoming overweight or obese.
  • Lower your risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Reduce your total blood cholesterol and triglycerides (your “bad cholesterol”) and increase your high density lipoproteins (“your good cholesterol”).
  • Decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Lower your chances of developing colon cancer.
  • Help build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.
  • Have more energy and feel stronger

Getting started

It’s never too late to start eating smart. The key is to begin with one small change, such as eating one more serving of fruits or vegetables each day. Commit to one goal for a week or a month, depending on what works best for you. When you have made your new behavior a regular habit, it’s time to set a new goal. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll see and feel results. One small change may seem insignificant, but it is an important step toward better health.