Healthy foods fuel your body, help to manage your weight and lower your risk of disease.
A healthy eating plan helps manage your weight by incorporating a variety of healthy foods in numerous colors to your plate. This includes dark, leafy greens, oranges, and tomatoes—even fresh herbs—are loaded with vitamins, fiber, and minerals. Adding frozen vegetables like peppers, or broccoli to meals gives you a quick and convenient boost of color and nutrients.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025, a healthy eating plan recommends the following:
- Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products.
- Consume a variety of protein-rich foods like seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds.
- Limit added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.
- Stay within your daily caloric needs
USDA’s MyPlate Plan can help you find what and how much to eat from the different food groups while keeping your daily calories in check. You can also download My Food Diary to help track your meals.
Basic Healthy Foods
Fruit is one of the staples of a healthy diet. Frozen or canned fruits are great choices. Try to eat fresh fruits to get all the nutrients. Push yourself beyond the common everyday fruits like apples and bananas, and try something exotic like pineapple, or kiwi fruit. When fresh fruit is not in season, you can always find a frozen, canned, or dried option. Sometimes dried and canned fruit contains added sugars or syrups, so read the label. Eating canned fruit packed in water or in its own juice is the healthier option.
Eat a variety of grilled or steamed vegetables. Fresh is the best for the nutrient count, but frozen or canned vegetables are a good alternative. When looking at canned vegetables try to find those without added salt, butter, or cream sauces. For fun and variety, try a new vegetable each week.
Healthy Calcium-Rich Foods
Dairy is rich in calcium. Fat-free and low-fat dairy is ideal, but also consider low-fat and fat-free yogurts without added sugars.
For beef, chicken, pork, and fish try healthier preparation options by baking or grilling. Try one of our healthy recipes or ask trusted friends for recipes with fewer calories ― you just may find your new favorite meal
Healthy Red Meat
Red meats are beef, lamb, veal, venison, goat, etc. Beef is the most common and most used red meat in the United States. It is a good source of protein, iron, niacin, choline, vitamin b12, and zinc.
Beef cuts can be high in saturated fat so read labels. Look for cuts of beef with less marbling throughout. Sirloin steak is the leanest cut, followed by top round, loin, and flank steak.
There are many different kinds of poultry. USDA categorizes them; chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas, and pigeons.
According to the USDA, the following are the various classes of young chickens.
- A broiler or fryer is a young chicken (usually under 13 weeks of age), of either sex, that is tender-meated with soft, pliable, smooth-textured skin and flexible breastbone cartilage.
- Roaster or roasting chicken is a young chicken (less than 12weeks of age), of either sex, with a ready-to-cook carcass weight of 5.5 pounds or more, that is tender-meated with soft, pliable, smooth-textured skin and breastbone cartilage that is somewhat less flexible than that of a broiler or fryer.
- Hen, fowl, or baking or stewing chicken is a mature female chicken (usually more than 10 months of age) with meat less tender than that of a roaster or roasting chicken and nonflexible breastbone tip.
- A cock or rooster is a mature male chicken with coarse skin, toughened and darkened meat, and a hardened breastbone tip.
The USDA classifies the following as turkeys.
- A fryer-roaster turkey is a young immature turkey (usually under 16 weeks of age), of either sex, that is tender-meated with soft, pliable, smooth-textured skin, and flexible breastbone cartilage.
- A mature or old turkey is either sex (usually in excess of 15 months of age), with coarse skin and toughened flesh.
According to the USDA, the following are the various classes of ducks.
- A broiler duckling or a fryer duckling is a young duck (usually under 8 weeks of age), of either sex, that is tender-meated and has a soft bill and a soft windpipe.
- A roaster duckling is a young duck (usually under 16 weeks of age), of either sex, that is tender-meated and has a bill that is not completely hardened and a windpipe that is easily dented.
The USDA classifies geese:
- A young goose may be of either sex, is tender-meated, and has a windpipe that is easily dented.
- A mature goose or old goose may be of either sex and has toughened flesh and hardened windpipe.
What is a guinea?
Guinea fowl is similar to chicken, but a little leaner. You must pay extra care to avoid overcooking a guinea. The meat is a bit darker and more flavorful than chicken without being too gamey tasting. It pairs well with sweeter nuts, fruits, and root vegetables such as chestnuts, berries, and sweet potatoes.
Believe it or not, the USDA has a classification for the consumption of pigeons.
- A squab is a young, immature pigeon of either sex and is extra tender-meated.
- A pigeon is a mature pigeon of either sex, with coarse skin and toughened flesh.
Fish is an important source of omega-3 fatty acids and provide multiple other benefits.
Seafood and fish are filled with vitamins such as D and B2 (riboflavin). It is rich in calcium and phosphorus and a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times per week as part of a healthy diet. Fish is packed with protein, vitamins, and nutrients that can lower blood pressure and help reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Mercury content in fish
The mercury content in fish and other seafood depends largely on the species and the levels of pollution in its environment.
Mercury levels in seafood are measured as parts per million (ppm). Here are the average mercury counts in fish and seafood, from highest to lowest.
- Swordfish: 0.995 ppm
- Shark: 0.979 ppm
- King mackerel: 0.730 ppm
- Bigeye tuna: 0.689 ppm
- Marlin: 0.485 ppm
- Canned tuna: 0.128 ppm
- Cod: 0.111 ppm
- American lobster: 0.107 ppm
- Whitefish: 0.089 ppm
- Herring: 0.084 ppm
- Hake: 0.079 ppm
- Trout: 0.071 ppm
- Crab: 0.065 ppm
- Haddock: 0.055 ppm
- Whiting: 0.051 ppm
- Atlantic mackerel: 0.050 ppm
- Crayfish: 0.035 ppm
- Pollock: 0.031 ppm
- Catfish: 0.025 ppm
- Squid: 0.023 ppm
- Salmon: 0.022 ppm
- Anchovies: 0.017 ppm
- Sardines: 0.013 ppm
- Oysters: 0.012 ppm
- Scallops: 0.003 ppm
- Shrimp: 0.001 ppm
How much mercury in fish is okay for humans?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that the dietary safety limit for methylmercury (mercury build up in fish and shellfish) is 0.1 microgram per kilogram of body weight per day.
This amounts to 8-12 ounces of a variety of seafood per week for adults.
Healthy Pork Options
Pork is considered “the other white meat” because it’s packed with protein and minerals. One serving of pork has thiamine, vitamin B6 and B12, potassium, iron, and magnesium. A study found that the fat in pork contained more unsaturated fats than beef and lamb. This means more omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your health.
When looking for cuts of pork, be sure to read labels. Certain cuts of pork can be high in saturated fat. The leanest cut of pork is the tenderloin. The most delicious pork cut is bacon.
Healthy Foods for Adults
Adults (age 19 – 59) have different roles and dietary needs. Work and school commitments with personal, family, or other responsibilities can make healthy eating difficult. Time constraints and limited financial resources may also make it challenging for adults to adopt and maintain a healthy dietary pattern.
Overweight Adults and Obesity in the United States
74 percent of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. This puts them at increased risk of chronic health conditions, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Weight loss and maintenance is no simple task. It requires a reduction in the number of calories consumed. It also requires an increase in calorie burn through physical activity. Weight loss and maintenance require a commitment to a long-term lifestyle change. The good news is that The Chubby Runner can help in this journey.
Men’s Healthy Nutrition Ideas
On average, men need 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight. In addition to a healthy balanced diet, men have some special dietary needs, more calories, protein, calcium, and supplements.
Increased Protein Intake
Men and women both need protein in their diets. But, men’s protein needs are proportionally greater. This is especially true for physically active males.
How to determine daily protein needs
To determine optimal protein needs, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. This will give you the maximum number of grams of protein needed. For example, a 44-year-old man who weighs 200 pounds and wants to increase lean muscle mass should eat up to 91 grams of protein daily.
Men need calcium
1 in 4 men over age 50 will have osteoporosis. To help prevent this, men should eat calcium-rich foods and calcium supplements.
How can osteoporosis be prevented in men?
There have been fewer research studies on osteoporosis in men than in women. But experts agree that all people should take the following steps to preserve their bone health:
- Avoid smoking
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Increase your level of physical activity, especially resistence and weight training exercises
- Ensure a daily calcium intake that is adequate for your age (see table below)
- Get enough vitamin D
- Men over age 70 should increase their uptake to 800 IU daily
- Discuss with your doctor the use of medications that are known to cause bone loss
- Seek treatment for any underlying medical conditions that affect bone health
|Life Stage Group||Calcium mg/day||Vitamin D (UI/day)|
|19 to 30 years old||1,000||600|
|31 to 50 years old||1,000||600|
|51 to 70 years old||1,000||600|
|70 year old and up||1,200||800|
Healthy Foods for Women
Women have some unique nutritional needs, including needing more of certain vitamins and minerals during pregnancy or after menopause. Here is some more information from womenshealth.gov.
- Calories. Most times, women need fewer calories. On average, adult women need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day. Women who are more physically active may need more calories.
- Vitamins and minerals. Iron, calcium and folic acid are particularly important for women.
- Reproductive health. Women have unique nutritional needs during different stages of life, such as during pregnancy and breastfeeding or after menopause.
- Health problems. Women are more likely to have some health problems related to nutrition, such as celiac disease and lactose intolerance, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as iron-deficiency anemia.
- Metabolism. Women process some substances differently and burn fewer calories at rest and during exercise than men do.
Women’s nutritional needs change over time
Women’s nutritional needs change as their bodies change during different stages of their lives.
During the teen years
Girls ages 9 to 18 need more calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones and help prevent osteoporosis later in life. Girls need 1,300 milligrams (mg) of calcium and 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D every day. Girls ages 14 to 18 also need more iron than boys (15 mg compared to 11 mg).
Young women typically need more calories than when they were younger, to support their growing and developing bodies. After about age 25, a woman’s resting metabolism goes down. To maintain a healthy weight after age 25, women need to gradually lower their calorie intake and increase their physical exercise.
Before and during pregnancy
More of certain nutrients than usual to support health and the baby’s development. These nutrients include protein, calcium, iron, and folic acid. Many doctors recommend prenatal vitamins or a folic acid supplement during this time. Many health insurance plans also cover folic acid supplements prescribed by your doctor during pregnancy. You also need to avoid some foods, such as certain kinds of fish.
Women should continue eating healthy foods while breastfeeding. And drink more water. Nursing mothers may need about 13 cups of water a day.
Lower levels of estrogen after menopause raise the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and break easily. Consult with your doctor about healthy eating plans and whether you need more calcium and vitamin D to protect your bones. Most women also need fewer calories as they age, because of less muscle and less physical activity.
Healthy Eating for Women Who Are Pregnant or Lactating
Pregnancy and lactation are important stages of life for women. Nutrition plays an integral role in these life stages to support the health of the mother and her child. And following a healthy diet plan is especially important for several reasons.
- Increased nutrient consumption is necessary for the growth and development of the baby and the mother
- Eating a healthy diet before and during pregnancy may improve pregnancy outcomes
- Healthy eating affects health of the mother and child in subsequent life stages
Children Need Healthy Foods
From birth through childhood into teens and adulthood, a healthy diet is paramount. Although each stage of development requires unique dietary needs. Here is a breakdown of the healthy food needed for each stage of life.
Healthy Food Options for Infants and Toddlers
The USDA recommends the following for foods for infants at certain milestones.
Infant Dietary Recommendations in the First 6 Months
In the first 6 months of life, infants should consume human breast milk exclusively. Continue to feed infants breast milk through at least the first year of life, and longer if possible.
Infants should eat iron-fortified formula during their first year if breast milk is unavailable.
Infants should also receive Vitamin D supplements soon after birth.
Recommended Infant Diet In the First 6 to 12 Months
At 6 months, infants may begin to eat nutrient-dense complementary foods. This includes potentially allergenic foods combined with other complementary foods.
Infants should consume a variety of foods from all food groups, rich in iron and zinc, particularly for infants that breastfed.
Avoid sugary beverages with added sugars and limit foods and beverages with high salt content.
Infants may wean from breast milk or iron-rich formula to a healthy dietary pattern.
Healthy Foods Options for Children Age 2 to 8
In early childhood (ages 2 through 4), girls need about 1,000 to 1,400 calories per day and boys need about 1,000 to 1,600 calories per day.
With the transition to school-age (ages 5 through 8), females need approximately 1,200 to 1,800 calories per day and boys require about 1,200 to 2,000 calories per day.
Physical Activity for Kids
Childhood is a critical time for physical and mental development. It is a period where learning healthy habits helps in establishing a firm foundation for lifelong health and w. For youth, regular physical activity can improve bone health, cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, and cognition (including academic achievement), and reduce the symptoms of depression.