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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well


Tips for a healthy eating plan

Melissa Bess, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Camden County, University of Missouri Extension


To maintain a good eating plan, it’s important to cut back on calories, eat lean and enjoy healthy foods. Here are some tips for healthy eating:


  • Read food labels to get information about particular food items.
    • First, look at the serving size, servings per container and calories. The serving size may be less than what we think, so compare that amount to the amount you are eating. If you are eating an entire container of a particular food and the servings per container number is 2, you must double everything on the food label.
    • For fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, you should aim for 5 percent or less of the Daily Value for these nutrients.
    • For fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron, you should aim for closer to 20 percent of the Daily Value. Try to keep trans fat to zero or as close to zero as possible.

  • Try to choose foods that are lower in fat, calories and sodium, but high in fiber and nutrients within all the food groups.
    • Vegetables: plain fresh or plain frozen vegetables (no added sodium or sauces), low-sodium canned vegetables (you can also wash canned vegetables to eliminate a little more salt)
    • Fruits: plain fresh or plain frozen fruits (no added sugar or sauces), low-sugar/syrup or no-sugar canned fruits, raisins (you can also wash your canned fruit to eliminate a little more sugar)
    • Meats/beans/nuts: lean meat like chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, or pork, beans, tuna in water, lentils, dried peas, egg whites, nuts and nut butters (peanut butter). You should also take the skin off poultry and cook meats using a healthy cooking technique, like sautéing, broiling, grilling, or baking as opposed to frying.
    • Grains: oatmeal, shredded wheat, whole-grain cereal (with less than 10 grams of sugar and at least 3 grams of fiber), brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, corn tortillas, whole-grain low-fat crackers and whole-wheat pitas
    • Milk/dairy: skim or 1 percent milk, fat-free or light yogurt, or low-fat cheese
    • Condiments: nonfat sour cream, light margarine, ketchup, mustard, low-fat salad dressing, light jam, low-fat mayo.

  • Stock up on healthy foods at the grocery store and cook more foods at home, rather than eating out. The calories and fat can add up fast at a restaurant. If you do eat at a restaurant, go for a salad (dressing on the side, limit higher fat toppings) and broth-based soup or share a meal with someone and ask for sauces on the side.

  • Eat breakfast every day and include at least two or three of the food groups. Choose foods with fiber and a food with protein to keep you full longer. Eating breakfast helps give you fuel that you need for the day, keeps blood sugar levels even and helps you eat less calories throughout the day.

  • Snack only when hungry and enjoy more unprocessed foods, rather than foods from a bag. Try fruits, vegetables, yogurt, low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers for an easy, quick snack.


Even just a few small changes at a time can add up to big results. Choose one or two simple things at a time to build a healthy eating plan.


If you have questions or ideas for future articles, please contact Melissa Bess, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension at 573-346-2644 or


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Last update: Wednesday, January 12, 2011