It’s easy to feel bombarded by the latest healthy eating trend or buzzworthy ingredient. But good nutrition is really about consistently choosing healthy foods and beverages. With healthy eating patterns, it’s possible to enjoy food and beverages that reflect your preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations.
Healthy eating emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein. Dairy recommendations include low-fat or fat-free milk, lactose-free milk, and fortified soy beverages. Other plant-based beverages do not have the same nutritional properties as animal’s milk and soy beverages. Protein recommendations include seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), soy products, nuts, and seeds.
Most people in the United States need to adjust their eating patterns to increase their intake of dietary fiber, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025[PDF-30.6MB]. At the same time, we need to consume less added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. Here are some ways to get started.
Fiber helps maintain digestive health and helps us feel fuller longer. Fiber also helps control blood sugar and lowers cholesterol levels. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are good sources of fiber.
To bump up fiber, try this:
Calcium and vitamin D work together to promote optimal bone health. Our bodies can make vitamin D from sunshine, but some individuals may have difficulty producing enough vitamin D, and too much sun exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer. While very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, several foods and beverages are fortified with this essential nutrient. See food sources of calcium and vitamin D.
To increase calcium and vitamin D intake, try this:
Potassium helps the kidneys, heart, muscles and, nerves function properly. Not getting enough potassium can increase blood pressure, deplete calcium in bones, and increase the risk of kidney stones.
People with chronic kidney disease and people taking certain medications may have too much potassium in their blood. But most people in the United States need more potassium in their eating patterns. See food sources of potassium.
To add more potassium, try this:
Too much added sugar in your diet can contribute to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Some foods such as fruit and milk contain natural sugars. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods and drinks when they are processed or prepared. Added sugars have many different names, such as cane juice, corn syrup, dextrose, and fructose. Table sugar, maple syrup, and honey are also considered added sugars. Sugary drinks are a common source of added sugars [PDF-30.6MB].
To limit added sugars, try this:
Replacing saturated fat with healthier unsaturated fats can help protect your heart. Common sources of saturated fat [PDF-1.13MB] are fatty meats such as beef ribs and sausage, whole milk, full-fat cheese, butter, and cream cheese.
We need some dietary fat to give us energy, help us develop healthy cells, and help us absorb some vitamins and minerals. But unsaturated fat is better for us than saturated fat. See common sources of saturated and unsaturated fat [PDF-1.13MB].
To replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats, try this:
Eating too much sodium can raise your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. More than 70% of the sodium Americans consume comes from packaged and prepared foods. While sodium has many forms, 90% of the sodium we consume is from salt. See the top sources of sodium [PDF-226KB].
To cut back on sodium, try this:
A good practice is to aim for a variety of colors on your plate. Fruits and vegetables like dark, leafy greens, oranges, and tomatoes—even fresh herbs—are loaded with vitamins, fiber, and minerals.