Health Department

Healthy Choices

Healthy Choices

by Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director

January 16, 2012

A healthy lifestyle involves many choices. Among them, choosing a balanced diet or eating plan. So how do you choose a healthy eating plan? Let's begin by defining what a healthy eating plan is.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 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 and stays within your daily calorie needs.

Ok, don’t get overwhelmed by that last paragraph, it’s not as hard as it sounds.

A healthy eating plan that helps you manage your weight and helps prevent many chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, includes a variety of foods you may not have considered. If "healthy eating" makes you think about the foods you can't have, try refocusing on all the new foods you can eat.

Fresh fruits don't have to be just apples or bananas. These are great choices, but try some exotic fruits, too. How about a mango? Or a juicy pineapple or kiwi fruit!

When your favorite fresh fruits aren't in season, try frozen or a dried variety of a fresh fruit you enjoy. Dried fruits make a wonderful and snack and helps to keep that hungry feeling away. If you choose a canned fruit, be sure and choose canned varieties of fruit packed in water or in their own juice, this way you can skip out on the added sugar that can be found in canned fruits.

When it comes to fresh vegetables, try something new. You may find that you love grilled vegetables or steamed vegetables with an herb you haven't tried, like rosemary. You can sauté vegetables in a non-stick pan with a small amount of cooking spray. Or try frozen or canned vegetables for a quick side dish. When trying canned vegetables, look for vegetables without added salt, butter, or cream sauces.

Commit to going to the produce department and trying a new vegetable each week. Ok try at least a new one each month.

When you think of foods rich in calcium, you may automatically think of a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk. But what about low-fat and fat-free yogurts without added sugars? These come in a wide variety of flavors and can be a great dessert substitute for those with a sweet tooth.

Tired of the same foods and recipes each week? If your favorite recipe calls for frying fish or breaded chicken, try healthier variations using baking or grilling. Maybe even try a recipe that uses dry beans in place of higher-fat meats. Ask around or search the internet and magazines for recipes with fewer calories, you might be surprised to find you have a new favorite dish!

Does eating healthy mean you need to give up your favorite dish? The answer is No! Healthy eating is all about balance. You can enjoy your favorite foods even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while and balance them out with healthier foods and more physical activity. You may find that a few substitutes in that favorite dish also lessens the calories while maintaining that great taste.

Try eating smaller amounts of your favorite dish. If your favorite higher calorie food is an afternoon chocolate bar, have a smaller size or only half a bar. Be careful! This technique works well for some people, but others may find it is too tempting to have their favorite food available, even in smaller amounts.

The point is, 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.

Being consistently healthy in your eating choices is the key. Making the same healthy eating choices over time can lead to better eating habits. By thinking more positively and focusing on what you can have, you'll help yourself establish healthy eating habits.

A quick tip for healthy eating is to shop around the outside walls of the grocery store and to drink more water.

*information provided by