Nutrition basics

Do you feel like you can't keep up with the latest nutrition news because it's always changing? It's true that knowledge about nutrition and diet evolves over time. But there are some nutrition basics that can help you sort through the latest research and advice.

Nutrition basics come down to eating wholesome foods that support your health.

Want to go beyond the basics? Talk to a healthcare professional, such as a dietitian. You can ask for diet advice that takes into account your health, lifestyle and food preferences.

Healthy diets

Do you want to eat a healthy diet but aren't sure where to start? You've probably seen a lot of options for healthy diets online, in magazines and in cookbooks. When you choose an eating plan, make sure to look for one that:

  • Includes a variety of foods from the major food groups: fruits; vegetables; whole grains; low-fat dairy products and lean protein, including beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds; and healthy fats.
  • Provides guidelines for how much food to choose from each group.
  • Includes foods you can find in your local grocery store — rather than specialty or gourmet store items.
  • Fits your tastes, lifestyle and budget.

Also talk with your healthcare team about your health risks. For example, you may be counseled to eat foods that are low in sodium if you have high blood pressure.

Healthy cooking

Good food is one of life's great pleasures. And for many people, meals are at the heart daily life and celebrations. Making satisfying and healthy meals that help you and those you cook for avoid health problems is a win-win.

Healthy cooking starts with moving away from high-calorie, sugary, fatty and salty foods that are highly processed.

Try out healthy-cooking techniques such as baking, grilling, steaming and sauteing. Learn key food-safety tips, recipe makeovers and more. With these healthy-cooking skills, lowering the risk of health problems can be delicious.

Healthy menus and shopping strategies

Looking for ways to make meals healthier yet still enticing? You can plan healthy menus by browsing healthy recipes online and in cookbooks.

To prepare your healthy menus, you'll need to buy nutritious ingredients. When you shop at the grocery store, focus on choosing fresh, frozen and less-processed, wholesome foods. That means spending more time in the produce section to stock up on fruits and vegetables. Look for whole grains and low-fat dairy products too.

Here's another key shopping strategy: Don't spend too much time in the snack food and candy aisles. And be sure to check out farmers markets during the growing season. That way, you can see what local produce is available.

Nutritional supplements

Nutritional supplements are meant to complement a healthy diet, not replace it. If you're in good health and you eat a wide variety of foods, you likely don't need supplements.

But sometimes, fortified foods and dietary supplements may help provide one or more nutrients. For example, women who are pregnant or hoping to conceive are advised to take prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid.

Otherwise, a supplement might be recommended if you don't eat enough healthy foods or your diet isn't varied. Or you might need a supplement if you have a food allergy, intolerance, or condition that causes you to restrict certain foods or food groups. A healthy diet is especially key if you have a medical condition.

Talk with your healthcare team or a dietitian about whether supplements might be right for you. Be sure to ask about the possible side effects of any supplements you might try. Also ask if a supplement could affect any medicines you take.

Nov. 21, 2023