Go for what you need

Building a healthier plate can help you meet your nutrient needs and maintain your weight. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein foods contain the nutrients you need without too many calories.
Most of what you eat and drink each day should fit within one or more of the 5 food groups. To move to a healthier weight, you need to make smart choices from every food group. Smart choices are the foods with low amounts of solid fats or added sugars: such as, fat-free (skim) milk instead of whole milk, unsweetened cereal instead of sweetened cereal, and 95% lean ground beef instead of regular (75% lean) ground beef.
Also think about how the food was prepared. For example, choose skinless baked chicken instead of fried chicken and choose fresh fruit instead of a fruit pastry. Focusing on the foods you need can help you eat a healthy diet and manage weight.


Does it matter how much carbohydrate, protein, and fat you eat? Carbohydrate, protein, and fat are components of foods and drinks that provide calories. “Calories” matter when it comes to body weight, not the calorie source. You should not select a diet that avoids or severely limits carbohydrates, protein, or fat. Similarly, you should not select a diet that avoids any of the 5 food groups. There are choices within each food group that provide the nutrients you need, without too many calories.


Get Started focusing on the foods you need:

  • Start with breakfast. Eat a breakfast that helps you meet your food group needs. People who skip breakfast often weigh more. Eating a nutrient-dense breakfast may help you lose weight and keep it off.
  • Have healthy snacks available at home and bring healthy snacks to eat when on-the-go, such as carrot and celery sticks with peanut butter or whole grain crackers and low-fat cheese.
  • When preparing meals, include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and lean protein foods.  These foods provide nutrients with fewer calories.
  • To feel satisfied with fewer calories, replace high-calorie foods with lower calorie foods. You can eat larger portions of these foods for fewer calories. For example, follow the advice to “make half your plate fruits and vegetables.”

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