What is nutrition? | Why does nutrition matter? | How can I eat a healthy diet? | What is a healthy diet for my children? | How do I get my child to eat healthy foods? | How can my baby get the nutrition they need? | What about nutrition during pregnancy? | What is healthy to drink? | What is an eating disorder? | What if I need help getting nutritious food? | There is no such thing as good food or bad food | Common nutrition terms
What is nutrition?
Nutrition is the food you eat that helps you grow and be healthy. Getting good nutrition by eating a healthy diet is one of the best things you can do to get and stay healthy.
Why does nutrition matter?
Good nutrition is very important. People with good nutrition feel better, live longer, and get sick less than those with poor nutrition. Good nutrition also helps children learn better. If you already have a health condition such as diabetes or heart disease, good nutrition can help you manage it.
How can I eat a healthy diet?
To eat a healthy diet, focus on eating foods that are good for you, limiting the less healthy foods, and eating a balanced diet. Here are some general tips:
Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables have many nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, which keep you healthy.
Eat whole grains.
Whole grain foods, like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal, are made using the entire grain. They have fiber, protein, and vitamins that help you feel full and stay healthy.
Eat enough protein.
Protein is an important building block your body needs. Protein foods include beans, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry, meat, and dairy products. These foods help build bones, muscles, and skin. They also help you feel full.
Limit sugar, salt, and saturated fat.
Too much sugar, salt, or saturated fat can make you less healthy. Foods like cookies, chips, and other snack foods often have a lot of sugar, salt, and saturated fat. It is okay to eat these foods but try to make them a smaller part of what you eat.
Eat a variety of foods.
To get all of the nutrition you need, make sure you eat a variety of foods, including different vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and protein.
Eat whole foods.
Whole foods that haven’t been processed are usually healthier than processed foods. Oranges are healthier than orange juice. Corn is healthier than cornflakes. Cheese is healthier than cheese crackers. Try to eat and cook with whole foods as much as you can.
If you plan your meals and snacks, you will be less likely to reach for unhealthy food when you get hungry. Planning can also help you stick to a budget when buying groceries.
Avoid “fad” diets.
You might hear about special diets to help you lose weight. For example, people try low-carbohydrate diets, keto diets, or the Mediterranean diet. Most people don’t need these diets, and many can even be unhealthy. Your doctor will tell you if you need a special diet. If not, just focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet.
What is a healthy diet for my children?
The same recommendations that help you eat healthy foods will help your children. Good nutrition is even more important for children, who are growing and learning. Make sure your children get whole grains, protein, calcium, fruits and vegetables. You can also help your children start healthy habits that will help them stay healthy for their entire lives.
How do I get my child to eat healthy foods?
Many children may not like a variety of food. Continue to introduce new foods for your child to try along with foods they like. Their likes will change over time. If your child is having trouble eating a healthy diet, your doctor can give you some suggestions. Most children become more open to new foods as they get older.
How can my baby get the nutrition they need?
Babies have different nutritional needs than children and adults. For the first 6 months, your baby should eat only breast milk or formula (or both). When your baby is about 6 months old, you can start introducing them to other foods and drinks. Many babies first eat fruits and vegetables that have been mashed until smooth. Your baby’s doctor can help you learn what to feed and how to feed it.
What about nutrition during pregnancy?
When you are pregnant, what you eat affects you and your baby. Make sure you eat healthy foods. It is also good to take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid while you are pregnant. These vitamins help your baby’s development.
There are some foods you should not eat when you are pregnant because they can be dangerous to your baby. These include cold deli meat (like salami or turkey), raw or undercooked fish and meat, soft cheeses like queso blanco and queso fresco, and uncooked eggs. It is very important not to drink any alcohol when you are pregnant.
What is healthy to drink?
Your body needs lots of water. Milk and milk alternatives are great sources of protein. Limit drinks with a lot of sugar in them, including juice and soda.
What is an eating disorder?
An eating disorder is a problem that affects how you eat, how you feel about food, and how you feel about your body. Eating disorders can be very bad for your mental health and your physical health. Some common eating disorders include anorexia (eating very little), bulimia (eating and then making yourself throw up), and binge eating (eating too much). It is possible to get better from an eating disorder. If you think you may have an eating disorder, talk to your doctor or a community health worker about how you can get help.
What if I need help getting nutritious food?
If you do not have much money or do not live close to a grocery store, it can be hard to get the food that will keep you and your family healthy. There are groups and programs to help. A Community Health Worker can help you find a local program. You can find a Community Health Worker by filling out the form here.
Here are some other tips for eating healthy on a budget:
- Look for frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. These are less expensive and last longer than fresh produce but are still nutritious and available all year. Choose canned products without syrup and extra sodium.
- Plan your meals with some of the same ingredients. You’ll need to buy fewer items and will be less likely to waste food.
- Watch for sales or discounts on produce. Buy fresh produce for side items and snacks when there is a sale.
- Buy healthy staples in bulk. Foods like rice, canned goods, and pasta are less expensive when you can buy them in bulk.
There is no such thing as good food or bad food.
Good nutrition is about eating healthy most of the time and getting a good balance of foods into your diet. Do your best to feed your body what it wants and needs.
Common nutrition terms
Your diet is how you eat, including what you eat and how much. “Diet” can also mean a program to try to lose weight or make other changes.
Calories are the measure of how much energy is in a food. You need enough calories every day to give your body the energy it needs.
Protein is a nutrient your body needs to grow and repair cells and to stay healthy. You can find protein in foods such as beans, nuts, meats, dairy, and whole grains.
Carbohydrates are a nutrient your body needs. For the best health, try to eat complex carbohydrates like whole wheat bread and whole fruit more often than simple carbohydrates like sugar, juice, and white bread.
Sugars are sweet-tasting carbohydrates. There are many different types of sugars, including table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, sucralose, honey, fructose, and glucose. There are sugars in most of the foods we eat, including fruit, vegetables, and even milk. There is also often a lot of added sugar in processed foods like cereal and cookies. Try to eat more foods without too much added sugar.
Fiber is the part of plant foods your body can’t digest. It is good for your health and helps you feel full. You can eat fiber by eating whole fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
Fats are another type of nutrient you get in your diet. It is important to eat some fats. They give you energy, help you absorb vitamins, keep your skin healthy, and keep you full.
There are three types of fats: Unsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans fats.
- Try to eat some unsaturated fats. These are in plant food and oils, like avocados, nuts and canola oil.
- Try to eat less saturated fat, which is in fatty meats like bacon and friend chicken and in full-fat dairy (milk) products.
- Try to limit trans fats. Trans fats are made in factories and added to processed foods like store-bought cookies, potato chips, and margarine.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are nutrients your body needs in small amounts to work properly and stay healthy. Most people can get the nutrients they need by eating a healthy diet with a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables. Your doctor will tell you if you need to take vitamin supplements. Most pregnant people should take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid, which helps the baby grow and keeps the mom healthy.
Whole foods are foods that haven’t been cooked in a factory. Vegetables, fruits, beans, eggs, meats, and whole grains like rice are all whole foods. Foods like crackers, juice, and bread are not whole foods. Eating more whole foods can be a good way to eat a healthier diet.
“Natural” can mean a lot of things. Many companies use this term to make their food sound healthy. It is important to read more about what is in the food to know if it is actually healthy.
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