An eating pattern can be defined as the combination of foods and beverages that make up an individual’s complete dietary intake over time. It represents all of what individuals habitually eat and drink, and these dietary components work together to impact health. A healthy eating habit should be tailored to the individual’s personal, cultural and traditional preferences as well as food budget. An individual’s healthy eating pattern will vary according to their calorie level. Healthy eating habits can help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient needs, and reduce risk for chronic disease. The most nutritious or nutrient-dense foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry – all with little or no saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
- Create healthy eating habits across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choosing a healthy eating habit at an appropriate calorie level can help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient needs, and reduce risk for chronic disease.
- Focus on variety, nutrient density, and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across all food groups in recommended amounts.
- Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Create an eating habit low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components.
- Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
- Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.1
Create healthy eating habits that account for all food and beverages within an appropriate calorie level and include:
- A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups— dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other
- Fruits, especially whole fruits
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products
A healthy eating pattern limits:
- Saturated and trans fats
- Added sugars, and
Several components of the diet should be limited which are of particular public health concern, and the specified limits can help individuals achieve healthy eating habits within calorie limits:
- Consume less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars
- Consume less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fats
- Consume less than 1 teaspoon of salt per day
If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation – up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men – and only by adults of legal drinking age.
How much should you eat?
You should eat the right amount of calories for your body, which will vary based on your gender, age, and physical activity level. Find out your daily calorie needs or goals with the Body Weight Planner by visiting www.supertracker.usda.gov/bwp.
Nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods. Individuals should aim to meet their nutrient needs through healthy eating patterns that include nutrient-dense foods. Foods in nutrient-dense forms contain essential vitamins and minerals and also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects. In some cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements may be useful in providing one or more nutrients that otherwise may be consumed in less than recommended amounts.
Healthy eating patterns are adaptable. Individuals have more than one way to achieve a healthy eating pattern. Any eating pattern can be tailored to the individual’s socio-cultural and personal preferences.
Consult with your healthcare professional before making significant changes in diet and nutrition.
Tips to Save More at the Store2
Stretch your dollar with these helpful tips:
- Eat before you shop. Grocery shopping hungry can lead to impulse buying and unhealthy food choices.
- Read the sales flyer. Sales flyers are usually released mid-week and can be found at the store’s entrance, in the newspaper, or on their website.
- Use coupons – but only for items that you know you’ll use. If you don’t need an item right away, save the coupon and see if it goes on sale.
- Look up and down for savings. Stores often stock the priciest items at eye level. You can save big by looking at the upper and lower shelves too.
- Check for store brands. Most stores offer their own brand of products that often cost less than name brands.
- Choose fresh foods. Stores typically stock shelves from back to front, placing the newest items behind the older ones. Reach in the back for the freshest items especially in the produce, dairy, and meat aisles.
- Ask for a rain check. If a sale item has run out, ask the store for a rain check. This allows you to pay the sale price after the item is restocked.
- Join your store’s loyalty program. Most stores offer a free loyalty program. Get special offers and discounts that non-members do not.
- Health.gov, Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-1/healthy-eating-patterns/
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/budget-save-more