Health Advocate Blog

Nutrition 101

Do you know what constitutes a healthy diet? A healthy diet provides your body with all of the essential nutrients it needs and includes a variety of foods. Here are some nutrition basics to help get you started on your path to better eating habits.

Healthy Eating Made Simple

Move over, food pyramid—there’s a new guide in town! This “new” guide for healthy eating is called MyPlate. It not only helps you eat better, but serves as a visual tool to illustrate portions of what you should be eating at every meal. MyPlate divides your “plate” into four categories: grains, fruits and vegetables, and protein. There is also the added category of dairy. MyPlate covers all of our macronutrients, which are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. These three nutrients should make up the bulk of our diet.

Grains – These foods are carbohydrates, which are important to overall health. Carbs are the main source of energy for your body; without them, it is almost impossible to function.

  • Aim for a quarter of your plate at each meal to be a grain.
  • Make half your grains whole for added nutritional benefit by opting for things like whole grain bread, brown rice and quinoa.
  • Limit refined grain products such as refined bread products (white bread is one example), baked goods or other sweets.

Fruits and VegetablesThese foods are low in fat, high in fiber, full of vitamins and are also considered to be carbohydrates. Incorporating a wide variety can play a role in reducing your risk for various health issues and help with weight management.

  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy body.
  • Make half of your plate fruits and/or vegetables at each meal.
  • Aim for 5 to 7 servings per day.
  • Try to eat fruits and vegetables of varying color for greater nutritional benefit.

Protein – This macronutrient is composed of amino acids that are essential to the building, maintenance and repair of body tissues including skin, organs and muscles. They also play a large role in your immune system.

  • Aim for one quarter of your plate at each meal to be a protein.
  • Focus on lean proteins such as eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, beans, soy and nuts.
  • Limit certain proteins like fatty cuts of beef, pork and high fat dairy products.

Dairy – This composes the “beverage” section of your meal. While dairy provides an important source of calcium and Vitamin D, the biggest takeaway for this section of MyPlate is to be mindful of your beverage choice. Milk provides a nutrient-rich source of hydration, but there are other options, too.

  • Be smart about beverages. The general recommended amount is eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids per day plus additional for exercise recovery. Milk, fruit juice, tea, coffee and soda are included in this recommendation, but they shouldn’t be the majority of your daily fluid intake as they can add unnecessary calories and excess sugar to your diet. (Since the above recommendation is general, talk to your doctor to get more specific information about how much fluid you should be drinking daily.)
  • Limit dairy to 1 to 2 servings per day, and choose options that are lower in fat.
  • Try the Plant Nanny or Waterlogged apps to help you drink more water.

Fats – Despite its reputation, fat is an essential component to a healthy diet. MyPlate doesn’t explicitly encourage you to eat healthy fats (although following the MyPlate guide can help you include some sources of fat in your diet), the Harvard School of Public Health advocates for fat in their Healthy Eating Plate. Your body needs fat for energy, to absorb vitamins and minerals, and to cushion bones and organs. But consuming an excess of unhealthy fats can contribute to weight gain as well as a number of health risks.

  • Eat foods high in healthy monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids such as those found in nuts, avocados, fish and oils such as olive, canola, safflower and sunflower oils.
  • Limit foods that are high in saturated fat and trans fat such as those found in animal products like meat, dairy, coconut and palm oil, butter or hard margarine, biscuits, cookies and crackers.
  • Aim for 30 percent of your daily calorie intake to be composed of healthy fats.

For Health Advocate Members

Looking for more nutrition tips or healthy recipes? If you are a Health Advocate member with access to our Wellness Coaching program, connect with a Wellness Coach for more ideas to eat healthy!