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Make Healthy Food Choices

Having a healthy diet starts even before you’re at the grocery store. Look for recipes that use healthier ingredients like the ones listed below.

With a little planning, you can shop for foods that are good for you and help you feel good too.

Plan to Eat Healthy

Eating healthy gives your body the nutrients it needs every day and lowers your risk for heart disease and other health problems.

  • Think about how many meals you’ll need in the week ahead and how much time you’ll have to prepare them. Write a shopping list with the ingredients you’ll need for those meals. Then try to stick with your list at the store.
  • Aim for ingredients you’ll find around the outer edges of the store where fresh and unprocessed foods usually are.
  • If you’re shopping for packaged foods, read the Nutrition Facts labels to help you know what’s inside. Many packaged foods have hidden sodium (salt), saturated fats, or sugars. Even foods labeled “natural” or “healthy” can be hiding sugar by using a different name. Some common other names for sugar are sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, barley malt, and dextrose.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals that help you feel healthy and have energy. Plus, fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories.

  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables that put a rainbow of colors on your plate.
  • Buy fresh fruits and veggies in season. Find out if there is a farmers market in your area.
  • If you can’t buy fresh, frozen fruits and veggies can be as good as, or better than, fresh in terms of nutrients, quality, shelf life, and cost.
  • If you’re buying canned, look for fruit in 100 percent fruit juice and low- or reduced-sodium veggies.

Grains

Grains are divided into two groups: whole grains and refined grains. Aim for getting half the grains in your shopping cart to be whole grains.

  • When buying breads, cereals, and pastas, look for ones that list brown rice, whole oats, whole rye, or whole wheat as the first ingredient.
  • Limit refined grains like white bread, white rice, and plain pasta.
  • Try a whole grain you’ve never tried before. Think about brown rice or quinoa. Buy some fresh, colorful veggies and herbs to mix it with.

Dairy

Milk products contain calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and other nutrients to help keep your body going. The health benefits of dairy products include improved bone health.

  • Choose lower fat (1% or skim) milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Flavored milk and drinkable yogurt may contain added sugars, which can mean more calories.
  • “No fat” products may seem like a healthier choice, but may have added sugars. That means you could be eating more calories than you think and maybe more than the recommended daily amount of sugar.

Protein

Proteins act like building blocks for healthy muscles, bones, skin, and blood. Try to vary your protein choices and go with lean protein.

  • Buy leaner cuts of meat. For example, when buying beef or pork, look for “loin” or “round” in the name.
  • Poultry like chicken or turkey offers high-quality protein and a relatively low amount of fat compared to red meat (beef and pork).
  • A medium egg has about 6 grams of protein. Plus, eggs are economical and easy to prepare in many ways.
  • Good vegetarian or vegan sources of protein include nuts, seeds, beans, peas, and soy.

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