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The old adage, you are what you eat, still rings true.  Keeping a healthy diet is essential for maintaining a healthy you.

The truth is that most of us don't get the "fuel" we need each day to maintain our bodies.  We either eat too much of the foods that cause our bodies to give out quickly or don't drink enough fluids to stay properly hydrated. It's all about portion control. That's why eating the right amount of foods is essential for good health. Visit the USDA's Choose My Plate website for more information. 

To get a better understanding about how our bodies work, think about the connection between the energy or food you take in and the energy you expend during the day.  Whether you want to maintain, lose or gain weight, there is a number of calories you need to intake. It depends on your age and activity level.

The best way is to use the USDA food pyramid and follow its advice of eating a variety of foods from each group.  By eating a variety of foods in the recommended amounts throughout the day, you will ensure that your body is getting the fuel it needs to stay healthy. 

Plus, you will feel comfortably full and satisfied. That feeling keeps you from eating "junk" food as a quick pick me up.  For a customized eating plan for adults and children, check out  It's an easy to understand guide on how to eat better, more satisfying foods! It helps you determine the correct portions and types of foods that you need each day.

Practical Eating Ideas for the Entire Family
Healthy Snacks
Healthy Breakfast
Healthy Lunch & Dinner
Grocery Store Shopping List                                                                                                   

Practical Eating Ideas for the Entire Family
Never adopt an eating behavior/habit that you can't or won't do for the rest of your life.  Don't deprive your body of foods you like, just eat them in moderation.

  • Try 100 calorie snack packs to ease your craving
  • Try a low-fat ice cream bar as opposed to a bowl of ice cream to control your portion
  • Never eat out of the bag- place your portion in a bowl or baggie to resist the urge to eat the entire bag!

Families who eat together eat less. 

  • Many times we miss the cues that we are full when we are distracted by televisions or computers.
  • It takes up to 10 exposures to decide to like a food. Show your children that eating habits are important by eating everything that you expect them to eat. Trying new foods as a family can be lots of fun.
  • Have your child help with the cooking.  Many times parents can learn to be more creative with the help of their kids.
  • Make a list of "fast healthy foods" (i.e. fresh fruit and natural peanut butter, low-fat string cheese, high fiber cereal bars, etc) that you always keep at your house or at work, to grab in a pinch.

Healthy Snacks
Are you the designated "Snack Mom or Dad" for your child's soccer game?  Is your house the favorite play yard in the neighborhood?  Do you need tips on snacks for vacation road trips?  Here are some healthy ideas for the entire family.

  • Hummus with whole wheat toasted pitas
  • Baked tortilla chips with salsa
  • Light microwave popcorn
  • Sliced, fresh veggies with low-fat dip
  • Fresh, canned or dried fruits
  • Bottled water and flavored water without added sugars or syrups
  • Milk - 1% fat and soy-flavored milks, for children over two years old
  • Whole grain, high fiber cereals, such as Frosted Mini Wheats
  • 100-calorie snack bags of crackers, low-fat cookies
  • Frozen yogurt with sliced fruit
  • Low-fat ice cream bars or frozen fruit bars
  • Frozen drinks made with yogurt and fruit (freeze fresh fruit in plastic bags, so that you can pop in the blend anytime to make a summertime treat!)
  • Add zest to fruit by topping it off with fat-free or low-fat yogurt
  • Make grocery shopping a family affair, and let children select the veggies and fruits that they like. 
  • Take the kids on a weekly trip to your local farmer's market to select fresh-from-the-garden fruits and vegetables.
  • Grow your own vegetables in your back yard or in containers on the patio or porch.
  • Keep healthier foods at eye level in the refrigerator so that they are the first options you see when you open the door.
  • During winter months when fresh foods aren't as plentiful, select canned and frozen fruits and vegetables that are prepared without additional sugar, syrups, butter or cream sauces.

Healthy Breakfast

 Does your six-year-old only want ice cream for breakfast?  Does your teen rush out the door, grabbing a sugar-laden pastry?  Do you often skip breakfast due to the morning rush hour on the freeway?  Here are some tips that will make breakfast easier for everyone in your household.

  • Keep fresh fruit out on the table, so that you can grab a piece on the way out the door.
  • Make breakfast the night before by setting the table and putting out healthy, low-sugar cereals or breakfast bars.
  • Slice fruit the night before and put in individual bowls for the next morning.
  • Keep the fridge stocked with low-fat or fat-free yogurt or yogurt drinks.  These are easy to drink on the run.
  • Make a colorful breakfast bowl with fresh fruit, low-fat or fat-free cereal and yogurt. 
  • Keep whole-grain breads and the toaster on the counter, so that you can quickly make toast.  Top with peanut butter and bananas for a fast, filling breakfast.
  • Add colorful fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries or bananas to your cereal or oatmeal.  Children are more likely to eat colorful foods!
  • On weekends, treat the family to an omelet made with egg whites, fresh sautéed veggies and low-fat cheese. 
  • Another popular weekend option is a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs and sautéed veggies, topped with salsa.
  • Go easy on the juices as they are packed with sugar - one cup of orange juice has the same number of calories as one cup of Coke! Buy 100 % fruit juices, without added sugars.

Healthy Lunch & Dinner

Do you have problems getting your child to eat lunch at school?  Do you head straight to the drive through at lunch or on your way home from work?  Do you need ways to make a fast lunch or dinner that your family will enjoy?  Try these tips for healthy, quick meals.

  • Pack a lunch - a sandwich made with whole-grain breads, lean meat and veggies, like lettuce, tomato, cucumber or peppers, a box of raisins, fresh fruit or no-added sugar fruit cup.  Add a 100-calorie snack bag, bottled water or bottled flavored water.
  • Stock the pantry with soups low in sodium.  For added variety, add fresh cut, canned or frozen veggies. 
  • Keep pasta and fresh or frozen plain veggies on hand.  Toss with olive oil and vinegar for a fresh pasta salad.  For more protein, add drained, rinsed beans. 
  • For a hot twist, add fresh, sautéed vegetables to your favorite pasta and fresh herbs, such as garlic or basil.  Top with low-fat parmesan cheese.
  • Instead of meat-laden lasagnas and pasta dishes, replace some of the meat ingredients with fresh veggies.  Get creative with layering mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, squash onions and eggplant, along with low-fat or fat-free cheese.  Try using the newer whole-grain pastas.
  • Love pizza?  Replace the pepperoni variety with one made with a whole wheat crust, 2% cheese and fresh, sautéed veggies.
  • Enlist the support of the entire family by either having the kids pitch in to make a salad or assign them a night to prepare a simple, healthy meal.  That way, everyone gets to select their favorite foods. 
  • Eat two vegetables each night at dinner.
  • When dining out, order salads, vegetable-based soups and entrees served with sautéed vegetables.  Keep sauces to a minimum or ask for them to be served on the side for dipping. 
  • Avoid all you can eat bars, including salad bars.  They are usually laden with mayonnaise-based foods. 
  • Watch the intake of alcoholic beverages as they are high in "empty" calories.  Stick to unsweetened tea, water, milk or soy milk with meals.


In This Section
Shopping List
2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Are you drinking your calories?