Healthy Eating

Esta guía en Español Young men's version of this guide
girl in kitchen

What is “healthy eating?”

Healthy eating is a way of balancing the food you eat to keep your body strong, energized, and well nourished. When you eat well, you are taking good care of your body.

  • Aim for regular meals (usually 3 meals per day; one in the morning, afternoon, and evening) and healthy snacks (when you are hungry or need extra energy)
  • Eat foods from all of the food groups (carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and dairy) each day to meet your nutritional needs
  • Balance nutrient-rich foods with small amounts of other foods, such as sweets or fast foods
  • Eat when hungry and stop when full

Healthy eating is a great way to:

  • Have energy all day long
  • Get the vitamins and minerals your body needs
  • Stay strong for sports or other activities
  • Reach your maximum height (if you are still growing)
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Prevent unhealthy eating habits, like skipping meals and feeling overly hungry at the next meal

Tips for Healthy Eating

  1. Don’t skip meals – plan meals and snacks ahead of time.
    • Believe it or not, eating 3 meals with healthy snacks in between is the best way to maintain your energy and a healthy weight. You are more likely to choose foods that are not as healthy when you skip meals and become overly hungry.
    • Eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast can lead to over-eating later in the day.
    • Eating away from home? Don’t leave yourself stranded—take foods with you or know where you can go to buy something healthy and satisfying.
  2. Learn about simple, healthy ways to prepare foods.
    • Try healthier ways to cook foods such as grilling, stir-frying, microwaving, baking, and boiling instead of deep frying.
    • Try fresh or dried herbs (basil, oregano, parsley) and spices (lemon pepper, chili powder, garlic powder) to flavor your food instead of adding less healthy toppings such as butter, sour cream, or gravy.
    • Trim the skin and fat off of your meat—you’ll still get plenty of flavors and it’s more nutritious.
  3. Sugar – avoid getting too much.
    • Sugary drinks are a big source of empty energy. This means that they contain a lot of energy (in the form of calories) that your body may not need, and they don’t contain a lot of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, or fiber). Try diet sodas, sugar-free drink mixes, water, and seltzer water instead of regular soda or juice. Even “natural” unsweetened juices contain a lot of energy you may not need. Don’t go overboard—if you are going to drink regular soda or juice, try to limit the amount you drink to 4-8 ounces, one time per day.
    • Lots of sugar is also found in foods such as cakes, cookies, and candies. Whole grain or wheat desserts may contain less sugar. It’s okay to enjoy these foods once in a while as long as they don’t replace healthier foods.
  4. Solid fat – avoid getting too much
    • Foods with solid fats such as butter, cream, hydrogenated oils, or partially hydrogenated oils contain saturated and possibly trans fats. This can be a big source of empty energy, without many nutrients. Try lean proteins such as beans, fish, and poultry, or heart healthy oils such as olive or canola oil instead.
    • As with sugar, solid fats can be found in desserts too. Choosing desserts made with fruit purees or olive oil instead of butter and cream can be healthier options; however, it is okay to enjoy these foods once in a while, as long as they don’t replace healthier foods.
    • Creamy sauces and dressings such as alfredo or ranch are often high in saturated fat and the serving size is likely less than you would expect. With sauces like this a little goes a long way.
  5. Be mindful when eating
    • Slow down when you eat. Try to relax and pace yourself so that your meals last at least 20 minutes, since it takes around 20 minutes for you to feel full.
    • Listen to your body. Eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full will help your body balance its energy needs and stay comfortable. Ask yourself: Am I eating because I’m hungry? Or am I stressed, angry, sad, or bored?
    • Try naturally fiber rich foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits so you feel comfortably full.
  6. Avoid “diet thinking.”
    • There are no good foods or bad foods. All foods can be part of healthy eating, when eaten in moderation.
    • You do not need to buy low carb, gluten-free, fat-free, or diet foods (unless told specifically by your medical provider to do so). These foods are not necessarily lower in calories—they usually have lots of other added ingredients to replace the carbs or fat.
    • YOU are more important than your weight or body size—believe it! Your health and happiness can be hurt by drastic weight loss plans. If you have not yet reached your adult height, rapid weight loss could interfere with your growth. Instead of trying extreme approaches, focus on making small lifestyle changes that you can stick with for life. This approach will leave you feeling healthier and happier in the long run.
If you want to make some changes in your food intake, it’s a good idea to talk to your health care provider (HCP). You may also want to ask your HCP for a referral to see a dietitian (a person who has studied nutrition and knows about healthy eating). Learning about nutrition can help you make healthier choices, but it’s important to think of food as just one important part of your life.