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Managing your weight with healthy eating

Show Alternative Names
Obesity - managing your weight
Overweight - managing your weight
Healthy diet - managing your weight
Weight loss - managing your weight

The foods and drinks you choose are important to maintaining a healthy weight. This article offers advice on making good food choices to manage your weight.

Test Your Knowledge About Healthy Eating

  • How many eggs are healthy to eat each week?

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is: "Up to seven." Eggs are a good source of protein and low in saturated fat. While the yolk is higher in fat and has some cholesterol, eating an egg a day won’t increase your risk for heart disease. If you want to eat more than seven eggs a week, or want to cut back on fat and cholesterol, consider using the whites only. The whites have plenty of protein.

  • How many grams of fiber per serving should your cereal have?

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is: "Five," and more is even better. When shopping for breakfast cereal, look for whole grain cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. That will help you get the recommended amount of fiber per day--25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. For a nutritious breakfast, top your cereal with fat-free or low-fat milk and a few slices of banana or other fruit.

  • Which is a healthy choice for breakfast on the go?

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is: "Whole-grain English muffin with fruit jam." If you don't have time for breakfast, reach for a whole grain English muffin or toast. Resist the urge for baked goods like blueberry muffins, croissants, and biscuits. They're made from processed grains and are loaded with fat.

  • How can you build a healthier sandwich?

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is: "All of the above." Enjoy a healthy sandwich by starting with lean cuts of meat and skipping the extra fat or calories from mayonnaise. Instead, pile on your favorite veggies and serve it on whole grain bread.

  • Pizza isn't a healthy meal option.

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is: "False." Pizza is OK to eat every once in a while, but try to limit yourself to only one or two slices. Instead of fatty meat toppings, choose vegetables, chicken, lean ham, or shrimp. And enjoy a salad on the side—just be sure to go easy on the dressing.

  • How many servings of fish should you eat each week?

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is: "Two." Eating fish twice a week may help reduce your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, blood clots, and stroke. The healthiest are oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, and albacore tuna.

  • What can you add to soups and entrees to make them healthier?

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is: "A and B." Beans and vegetables add fiber and vitamins to your meals. Next time you're cooking, just add a cup of your favorite canned beans or fresh or frozen vegetables to soups, stews, casseroles, and other entrees.

  • Which of the following makes a healthy between-meal snack?

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is: "Any of the above." A healthy snack is a good way to quell your hunger in between meals. Rather than grabbing a bag of chips or reaching into the candy jar, consider one of the options above. Greek yogurt has more protein. Just watch for added sugar in yogurt. Fruits and vegetables are also healthy choices.

  • What is the healthiest way to cook fish, meat, and poultry?

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is: "All of the above." These cooking methods don't add extra oil or fat to your food. Make your meal even healthier by choosing lean cuts of meat and cutting away visible fat before cooking. And don't forget to remove the skin from chicken or turkey.

  • Buffets are healthy because you can choose your own food.

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is: "False." The truth is that most people overeat when faced with an all-you-can-eat buffet. If you do find yourself at a buffet, try to fill up on salad and vegetables. Stay away from any foods that are creamy, crispy, breaded, fried, or battered.

  • How can you watch calories when eating out?

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is: "All of the above." You can still make healthy choices when you eat out—it just takes a little work. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. And before heading out, check out the menu online so you can make healthy choices ahead of time.

A Balanced Diet

For a balanced diet, you need to choose foods and drinks that offer good nutrition. This keeps your body healthy.

Know how many calories your body needs every day. A dietitian can help you determine your caloric needs based on your:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Size
  • Activity level
  • Medical conditions

Know how many servings of dairy, fruits and vegetables, proteins, and grains and other starches your body needs each day.

A balanced diet also includes avoiding too much of some foods and making sure you get enough of others.

Stock up on healthy foods such as fresh produce, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Limit foods with “empty calories." These foods are low in healthy nutrients and high in sugar, fat, and calories, and include items such as chips, candy, and regular sodas. Instead, focus on choosing snacks with fiber and protein like carrots and bell peppers with hummus, an apple and a piece of string cheese, or yogurt with fresh fruit.

Choose different healthy foods from each food group. Eat foods from each group with every meal. Whenever you sit down to a meal, fruits and vegetables should take up half of your plate.

Protein (meats and beans)

Avoid the fried options; baked, steamed, grilled, stewed, or broiled are lower in calories and saturated fat.

Good sources of lean protein include white meat turkey and chicken with the skin removed. Buffalo meat is also a lean option.

Eat lean cuts of beef or pork. Trim away any visible fat.

Eat plenty of fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon and sardines, at least 2 times per week. Limit varieties that are high in mercury, such as:

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish
  • King mackerel

Also limit red snapper and tuna to once a week or less.

Plant-based proteins are part of a balanced diet and often good sources of additional fiber. Examples are nuts and seeds, soy (including edamame, tofu, and tempeh). Another good source is beans and legumes, including:

  • Pinto beans
  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Split peas
  • Garbanzo beans

Eggs are also a good source of protein. For most healthy people, it is fine to eat 1 to 2 whole eggs per day. The yolk is where most of the vitamins and minerals are.

Dairy (milk and milk products)

Always choose fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) dairy products and try to consume 3 cups (0.72 liter) total per day. Be careful with flavored milks that may contain added sugars. Yogurt is best when it is fat-free or low-fat. Plain yogurt that you stir your own fresh or dried fruit into is better than fruit-flavored yogurts, which can contain added sugars.

Cream cheese, cream, and butter are high in saturated fat and should be consumed in moderation.

Grains, cereals, and fiber

Grain products are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other grains such as millet, bulgur, and amaranth. Foods made with grains include:

  • Pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Breads
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Tortillas
  • Grits

There are 2 kinds of grains: whole grains and refined grains. Choose mostly whole-grain foods. They are healthier for you because they have the entire grain kernel and have more protein and fiber than refined grains. These include:

  • Bread and pasta made with whole-wheat flour
  • Bulgur (cracked wheat), amaranth, and other grains
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Brown rice

Check the ingredients list and buy breads and pastas that list "whole wheat" or "whole grain" as the first ingredient.

Refined grains are changed to make them last longer. They also have a finer texture. This process removes fiber, protein, iron, and many B vitamins. These foods not only have less nutritional value, they are often less filling so you may feel hungry again sooner. Refined grains include white flour, white rice, or de-germed cornmeal. Eat fewer foods containing refined grains, such as white flour and pasta.

Products with added bran, such as oat bran or bran cereal, are a good source of fiber. Just remember, they may not be whole-grain products.

Oils and fats

Monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat. These are the healthiest type of fat. Many healthy oils come from plants, nuts, olives, or fish. They are liquid at room temperature.

Healthy choices include:

  • Canola
  • Corn
  • Cottonseed
  • Olive
  • Safflower
  • Soybean
  • Sunflower oils

Saturated fats. These are fats found mostly in animal products such as butter and lard. They are also found in coconut oil. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. It is best to try and reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet.

You can limit your intake of these fats by eating only a small amount of:

  • Whole milk products
  • Cream
  • Ice cream
  • Butter
  • Snack foods such as cookies, cakes, and crackers that contain these ingredients

Trans fats and hydrogenated fats. This type of fat is often found in fried foods and processed foods such as donuts, cookies, chips, and crackers. Many margarines also have them. The recommendation is to limit your intake of trans fats as much as possible.

Things you can do to help limit your intake of unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats include:

  • Limit fried foods. Fried food absorbs the fats from cooking oils. This increases your fat intake. If you do fry, cook with polyunsaturated oils. Try to saute foods in a small amount of oil instead of deep-fat frying.
  • Boil, grill, poach, and bake fish, chicken, and lean meats.
  • Read food labels. Try to avoid foods that have partially-hydrogenated fats or trans fats. Limit foods that are high in saturated fats.

Fruits and Vegetables

Many fruits and vegetables are low in calories and are also packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and water. Adequate intake of fruits and vegetables can help you control your weight. It may also reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases.

The fiber and water in fruits and vegetables helps fill you up. Including more fruits and vegetables in your diet can lower the calories and fat in your diet without leaving you feeling hungry.

Limit fruit juices to one 8-ounce (0.24 liter) cup or less per day. Whole fruits and vegetables are a better choice than juices because juices do not have the fiber to help fill you up. They often have added sugar, as well.

Divide your dinner plate. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fill the other half with whole grains and meat.

Replace half of the cheese in your omelets with spinach, onions, tomatoes, or mushrooms. Replace 2 ounces (56 grams) of cheese and 2 ounces (56 grams) of meat in your sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, or onions.

You can reduce your portion of rice or pasta by stirring in broccoli, chopped bell pepper, cooked squash or other vegetables. Many stores now sell "riced" cauliflower and broccoli that can be used along with or in place of rice to increase your vegetable intake. Use frozen vegetables if you do not have fresh ones. People who are on a low sodium diet may need to limit their intake of canned vegetables.

Healthy Eating Tips

Limit snacks that do not have any nutritional benefits, such as cookies, cakes, chips, or candy.

Make sure you are drinking enough water, at least 8 cups (2 liters) per day. Limit sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas and sweet teas.

For more information visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

Text only

Review Date: 8/20/2020

Reviewed By

Meagan Bridges, RD, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

References

Freeland-Graves JH, Nitzke S; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics: total diet approach to healthy eating. J Acad Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013;113(2):307-317. PMID: 23351634 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23351634/.

Hensrud DD, Heimburger DC. Nutrition's interface with health and disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 202.

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website. Lifestyle interventions to reduce cardiovascular risk: systematic evidence review from the lifestyle work group, 2013. www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/lifestyle-interventions-reduce-cardiovascular-risk. Accessed September 29, 2020.

Ramu A, Neild P. Diet and nutrition. In: Naish J, Syndercombe Court D, eds. Medical Sciences. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 16.

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf. Updated December 2020. Accessed September 29, 2020.

Disclaimer

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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Proteins - Illustration Thumbnail

Proteins

Protein is an important nutrient that builds muscles and bones and provides energy. Protein can help with weight control because it helps you feel full and satisfied from your meals.

The healthiest proteins for weight maintenance are the leanest, meaning they have less fat and calories than other choices. The leanest protein choices are fish or shellfish, skinless chicken or turkey, low-fat or fat-free dairy (skim milk, low-fat cheese). The leanest red meat cuts are loin and tenderloin. Other healthy options are plant-based proteins.

Illustration

myPlate - Illustration Thumbnail

myPlate

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's food guide, called MyPlate, encourages consumers to make healthier food choices. The guide encourages you to make healthy choices and avoid oversized portions. Half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. At least half of your grains should be whole grains. You also should switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.

Illustration

Healthy diet - Illustration Thumbnail

Healthy diet

Fat is essential for the proper functioning of the body. However, adults should be aware of the fat content of food, and limit intake of saturated fats.

Illustration

Proteins - Illustration Thumbnail

Proteins

Protein is an important nutrient that builds muscles and bones and provides energy. Protein can help with weight control because it helps you feel full and satisfied from your meals.

The healthiest proteins for weight maintenance are the leanest, meaning they have less fat and calories than other choices. The leanest protein choices are fish or shellfish, skinless chicken or turkey, low-fat or fat-free dairy (skim milk, low-fat cheese). The leanest red meat cuts are loin and tenderloin. Other healthy options are plant-based proteins.

Illustration

myPlate - Illustration Thumbnail

myPlate

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's food guide, called MyPlate, encourages consumers to make healthier food choices. The guide encourages you to make healthy choices and avoid oversized portions. Half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. At least half of your grains should be whole grains. You also should switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.

Illustration

Healthy diet - Illustration Thumbnail

Healthy diet

Fat is essential for the proper functioning of the body. However, adults should be aware of the fat content of food, and limit intake of saturated fats.

Illustration

 
 
 
 

 

 
 

 
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