How to Build Healthy Eating Habits

Bite by bite, eating habits will change your life.

A small change in eating routine brings you positive effects that add up over time.

So, what are healthy eating habits?

Eating only vegetables. NO. Eating only a few. NO. It’s important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy and fortified soy alternatives to building healthy eating habits. (1)

Here is the current nutrition guide published by the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. The portion of a meal will vary depending on your age and gender and physical activity level. So, let’s talk about nutrition first.

Credit: ChooseMyPlate.gov

The suggested food balance is divided into four sections of 30 percent grains, 40 percent vegetables, 10 percent fruits, and 20 percent protein. In addition, smaller dairy products, such as a glass of milk or a yogurt cup.

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30% of Grains

What are grains? Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other cereal grain is a grain product. Grains are divided into 2 subgroups such as whole grains and refined grains.

  • Whole grains – whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice.
  • Refined grains – white flour, cornmeal, white bread, and white rice.

Refined grains have a finer texture and last longer than whole grains, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. In other words, low nutritional quality but high calories.

Why eats grains? By eating whole grains, you can reduce the risk of heart disease and support healthy digestion.

Examples of grains: bagels, biscuits, bread, cornbread, oatmeal, muffins, pancakes, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, brown rice, pasta, tortillas.

40% of Vegetables

What are vegetables? Vegetables are organized into 4 subgroups:

  • dark green vegetables
  • red and orange vegetables
  • beans, peas, lentils
  • starchy

For the best result, we need to eat all 4 subgroups in good balance, but if you found it difficult then try to add one subgroup to your every meal.

Why eats vegetables? By eating vegetables, you can reduce the risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. And also, may protect against certain types of cancers.

Examples of vegetables:

  • dark green vegetables – broccoli, kale, spinach, romaine, watercress, dark green leafy lettuce, endive, escarole.
  • red and orange vegetables – carrots, pumpkin, red peppers, tomatoes, sweet potato, acorn, butternut.
  • beans, peas, lentils.
  • starchy – corn, potatoes.
  • other – bean sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, onions, zucchini, mushrooms.

10% of Fruits

What are fruits? Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. (watch out the amount of sugar in juice)

Why eats fruits? By eating fruits, you can help increase the intake of fiber and potassium which are important nutrients that many Americans do not get enough of in their diet.

Examples of fruits: apple, banana, grapes, grapefruit, orange, peach, pear, pineapple, plum, strawberries, watermelon.

20% of Protein

What are proteins? All foods made from meat, eggs, nuts, and soy products are considered part of the protein. Select a wide variety of protein foods. “Variety” is important here!

Why eats proteins? By eating proteins, you are building bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Lack of proteins cause swelling, fatty liver, skin degeneration, increase the severity of infections and stunt growth in children.

Examples of proteins: beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, scallops, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamias, tofu.

Dairy

What is dairy? All foods made from milk, yogurt, cheese, lactose-free milk, and fortified soy milk and yogurt. Cream cheese, sour cream, and butter that have little calcium and a high-fat content will not count as dairy.

Why eats dairy? Calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients at any age. By eating dairy products that contain calcium and vitamin D improves bone health and prevents the onset of osteoporosis in adults.

Examples of dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese

Again, it’s very important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. “Balance” is the key!

Ok, now let’s find out how much we need from each food group.

Get a personalized MyPlate Plan

MyPlate Plan will create your personalized food plan based on age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level. It’s 100% free. No email required.

Visit MyPlate Plan here. And, click start.

Credit: ChooseMyPlate.gov

Input your info then click “calculate food plan.”

Credit: ChooseMyPlate.gov

You’ll have some suggestions. Click one of them that fits your goal.

Credit: ChooseMyPlate.gov

Next page, you’ll see the daily recommended amounts for each food group.

Credit: ChooseMyPlate.gov

That’s all. These are just suggestions, so you don’t have to follow everything. But, it’s really nice resource to make a plan.

Wrapping Up

If you are already doing these 4 sections eating in good balance, move on to the next steps!

For example, choose options for meals, beverages, and snacks that have limited added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.

Bonus: you can get interactive lesson plans for icky eaters on Amazon. These are for parents and kids ages 5-12. I think learning about healthy eating habits with your kids can be a nice family activity (:

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