10 Steps to Building a Healthy Meal Plan

A healthy diet consists of eating more fruits and vegetables and smaller portions of lean protein and whole grains. The key is adjusting the portion sizes on your plate to consume more of the foods you need without adding too many calories. Dairy is also an important part of a healthy meal. It can be included as a beverage along with your meal or add low-fat or fat-free dairy foods to your plate. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) offers 10 tips on how to build healthier meals.

  1. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits

    Fruits and vegetables are full of essential nutrients and help promote overall good health. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables for best results.

  1. Include lean protein

    Choose protein foods such as lean cuts of beef, skinless chicken, pork, turkey, tofu or beans. Consume seafood as your protein source at least twice a week.

  1. Add whole grains

    Replace at least half of your grains with whole grains. They provide more nutrients and fiber. The food label should say 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain. Substitute white bread with whole wheat bread, use brown rice instead of white rice, etc.

  1. Use low-fat or fat-free dairy products

    Top off your meal with one cup of low-fat or fat-free milk. You will still receive the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients, but less calories and fat than whole milk. Don't or can't drink milk? Try a beverage made with soy such as soymilk or substitute with low-fat or fat-free yogurt.

  1. Avoid excessive fat

    Adding gravy or other heavy sauces adds extra fat and calories to healthy food choices. Steamed vegetables such as broccoli is great healthy food choices, but adding cheese sauce will make it an unhealthy choice. Other options include low-fat grated Parmesan cheese or seasonings like garlic or lemon.

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            6.  Eat slowly

                 Take your time when eating. Eating slowly will
                 allow you to savor your food and enjoy great
                 flavor and different textures. Eating too fast can
                 cause you to eat way too much.

            7.  Use a smaller or divided plate

                 Using a smaller plate or a plate divided into three
                 sections will help maintain portion control. This
                 will allow you to finish the whole plate and still
                 help you feel satiated without overeating.

            8.  Take control

                 Eat your meals at home as much as possible.
                 This way you will know exactly what kind of
                 foods you are eating. If you do eat out, make
                 yourself aware of the nutrition information. Make
                 healthier choices by choosing baked foods instead
                 of fried foods.

            9.  Try eating new and varied foods

                 Try out some new foods you've never had before
                 to keep it interesting. Something different may
                 become your new favorite. Trade recipes with
                 your friends and family or find a variety online.

           10. Eat healthy sweets

                 Dessert or “sweets” don't necessarily have to be
                 unhealthy. Fruits are naturally sweet and make a
                 great dessert dish. Try eating fresh fruit cocktail or
                 make a healthy fruit parfait made with yogurt and
                 strawberries, blueberries or any other fruit you enjoy.
                 Baked apples topped with cinnamon makes a healthy
                 hot dessert.

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