Healthy eating is a lifestyle choice. Choosing good nutrition and a healthy diet has many benefits. It helps overall health, and helps to reduce your risk for certain diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and certain kinds of cancer. Whatever your age, the nutrition habits you choose now can affect your health for the rest of your life.

According to Dietary Guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), you can keep a healthy diet if you:

  • Make smart food choices
  • Find a balance between exercise and eating
  • Get the most nutrition from every calorie

Ways to keep a healthy diet and lifestyle include:

  • Choosing lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and beans
  • Choosing high calcium foods such as broccoli, kale, low-fat cheese and milk
  • Including plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Adding in fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt
  • Using few if any fats, salt or sugar or reduce amounts of these
  • Eating breakfast
  • Enjoying your food, but eating less
  • Avoiding big portions
  • Making half your plate fruits and veggies
  • Choosing foods with low salt/sodium numbers
  • Drinking water instead of sugary drinks
  • Exercising for at least 30 minutes on most days
  • Slowly raising the intensity and amount of time you work out

You may eat something unhealthy now and again but then you should go back to your healthy eating habits. For most people, healthy eating makes the most sense because it promotes long-term weight loss and health.

The amount of calories you may need each day depends on your age, gender and activity level. For example, a relatively active 20 year-old woman would need more calories than an inactive 55 year-old man.

Your body mass index (BMI) combined with your activity level is used to find the right calorie amounts for you. Your BMI is a number that represents your body fat based on how tall you are and how much you weigh. This helps to let you know if you are underweight, healthy weight, or overweight.

To calculate your BMI and your recommended caloric intake, adults can use the Baylor University BMI and Calorie Calculator.

You should talk with your doctor about how best to keep a healthy lifestyle and whether you may need to lose weight. Your doctor can recommend other ways to live and eat well.

Resources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — View the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which has been published every five years since 1980.
Sources: American Dietetic Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

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