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How to Eat Healthy & What to Buy at the Grocery Store

By Sharon Therien

If you want to eat healthier, the first step is to choose whole foods as the foundation for healthy meals. In the supermarket, stay away from processed foods that are stripped of nutrients and made with unhealthy additives; look for whole foods that come from nature, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Use the USDA's My Plate, which gives you an idea of which food groups to eat, as a guide. Create healthy meals by combining these different food groups to give you the recommended amount each day.

Buy plenty of fruit at the supermarket. The USDA recommends eating four servings, which is the equivalent of 2 cups of fruits per day. Try blending oranges or peach slices into a smoothie, topping oatmeal with berries and adding pears or dried cranberries to salads.

Add vegetables to your meals. Many vegetables, with the exception of starchy varieties, are loaded with nutrients and low in calories. The USDA suggests five servings, or 2.5 cups of vegetables in a day. Chop spinach, mushrooms and broccoli to add to omelets, make salads and vegetable soups for lunch, and eat sides of green beans, peas or potatoes for dinner.

Base your meals on grains. You should eat six one-ounce servings of grains, half of which are whole, per day, according to the USDA. Include whole oats, whole wheat, bulgur wheat, barley, buckwheat and others. Read the labels to make sure the grains are whole ones. Have whole grain cereals or toast for breakfast, sandwiches on whole grain bread or tortillas for lunch, and have your dinner with brown rice or whole grain pasta.

Consume meat and beans. The USDA recommends about five and a half, one-ounce servings. Eat a combination of meat and beans or, if you are vegetarian, focus on beans and other meatless proteins. Nuts, seeds and seafood are included in this group as well. Try adding sliced grilled chicken to stir fries and salads, dip your apples in peanut butter, and add beans to your soups and burritos.

Add dairy to your diet, but don't go overboard. The USDA recommends 3 cups of low-fat or reduced fat dairy per day. Sprinkle low-fat cheese on eggs and salads, eat low-fat yogurt for breakfast or a snack, and drink reduced fat milk.

Tips

If you do buy processed, pre-packaged foods, read the nutrition labels to make the best choice. The FDA recommends choosing foods with low amounts of total fat, saturated and trans fat, calories and cholesterol and high amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Up to 5 percent daily value of a nutrient is considered low and more than 20 percent is high. Forty calories is considered a low amount and 100 calories is moderate, whereas more than 400 calories is considered high.

Warnings

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend only having small amounts of fats and sugars. They suggest choosing healthy fats, like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, over saturated and trans fats. Read the labels in the supermarket so you know what is in the food you are buying.

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