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Healthy Eating

Eating healthy can help reduce people’s risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, and several types of cancer, as well as help them maintain a healthy body weight. As described in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, eating healthy means consuming a variety of nutritious foods and beverages, especially vegetables, fruits, low and fat-free dairy products, and whole grains; limiting intake of saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium; keeping trans fat intake as low as possible; and balancing caloric intake with calories burned to manage body weight. Safe eating means ensuring that food is free from harmful contaminants, such as bacteria and viruses.

Download and print these recommendations: Healthy Eating (PDF – 230 KB)

Recommendations:

  1. Increase access to healthy and affordable foods in communities.
  2. Implement organizational and programmatic nutrition standards and policies.
  3. Improve nutritional quality of the food supply.
  4. Help people recognize and make healthy food and beverage choices.
  5. Support policies and programs that promote breastfeeding.
  6. Enhance food safety.

What Can State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Governments Do? 

  • Ensure that foods served or sold in government facilities and government-funded programs and institutions (e.g., schools, prisons, juvenile correctional facilities) meet nutrition standards consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Strengthen licensing standards for early learning centers to include nutritional requirements for foods and beverages served.
  • Work with hospitals, early learning centers, health care providers, and community-based organizations to implement breastfeeding policies and programs.
  • Ensure laboratories, businesses, health care, and community partners are prepared to respond to outbreaks of foodborne disease.
  • Use grants, zoning regulations, and other incentives to attract full-service grocery stores, supermarkets, and farmers markets to underserved neighborhoods, and use zoning codes and disincentives to discourage a disproportionately high availability of unhealthy foods, especially around schools.         

What Can Businesses and Employers Do? 

  • Increase the availability of healthy food (e.g., through procurement policies, healthy meeting policies, farm-to-work programs, farmers markets).
  • Adopt lactation policies that provide space and break time for breastfeeding employees (in accordance with the Affordable Care Act) and offer lactation management services and support (e.g., breastfeeding peer support programs).
  • Provide nutrition information to customers (e.g., on menus), make healthy options and appropriate portion sizes the default, and limit marketing of unhealthy food to children and youth.
  • Reduce sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars and eliminate artificial trans fats from products.
  • Implement proper handling, preparation, and storage practices to increase food safety.

What Can Health Care Systems, Insurers, and Clinicians Do? 

  • Use maternity care practices that empower new mothers to breastfeed, such as the Baby-Friendly Hospital standards.
  • Screen for obesity by measuring body mass index and deliver appropriate care according to clinical practice guidelines for obesity.
  • Assess dietary patterns (both quality and quantity of food consumed), provide nutrition education and counseling, and refer people to community resources (e.g., Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Head Start; County Extension Services; and nutrition programs for older Americans).

What Can Early Learning Centers, Schools, Colleges, and Universities Do? 

  • Implement and enforce policies that increase the availability of healthy foods, including in a la carte lines, school stores, vending machines, and fundraisers.
  • Update cafeteria equipment (e.g., remove deep fryers, add salad bars) to support provision of healthier foods.
  • Eliminate high-calorie, low-nutrition drinks from vending machines, cafeterias, and school stores and provide greater access to water.
  • Implement policies restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods.
  • Provide nutrition education.

What Can Community, Non-Profit, and Faith-Based Organizations Do? 

  • Lead or convene city, county, and regional food policy councils to assess local community needs and expand programs (e.g., community gardens, farmers markets) that bring healthy foods, especially locally grown fruits and vegetables, to schools, businesses, and communities.
  • Implement culturally and linguistically appropriate social supports for breastfeeding, such as marketing campaigns and breastfeeding peer support programs.

What Can Individuals and Families Do? 

  • Eat less by avoiding oversized portions, make half of the plate fruits and vegetables, make at least half of the grains whole grains, switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk, choose foods with less sodium, and drink water instead of sugary drinks.
  • Balance intake and expenditure of calories to manage body weight.
  • Breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first 6 months after birth when able.
  • Prevent foodborne illness by following key safety practices— clean (wash hands and surfaces often), separate (do not cross-contaminate), cook (cook food to proper temperatures), and chill (refrigerate promptly).