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How to eat for health

An older women and a young woman standing among vegetables carts

You've probably seen many articles in the media telling you what to eat and not eat. All this information can be confusing. You may be left wondering how much of different types of foods you should eat to stay healthy.

To help you choose foods wisely, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture have developed several tools, including:

Eating in a healthy manner isn't hard at all. To help prevent heart disease, stroke, and perhaps other diseases, you should eat mainly:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Grains (at least half of your grains should be whole grains, such as whole wheat, oatmeal, and brown rice)
  • Fat-free or low-fat versions of milk, cheese, yogurt, and other milk products
  • Fish, skinless poultry, lean red meats, dry beans, eggs, and nuts
  • Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats

Also, you should limit the amount of foods you eat that contain:

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For women, that means one drink per day. One drink is defined as:

  • 12 fluid ounces of regular beer
  • 5 fluid ounces of wine
  • 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits

Following a healthy eating plan doesn't mean that you can't indulge every now and then. If what you eat is generally low in fat (especially saturated and trans fat) and sugars and you are getting enough vitamins and minerals, you may indulge in a rich dessert or serving of fried food every once in a while. If, on the other hand, you eat a lot of high-calorie foods, you are likely to get all the calories you need quickly without getting enough vital nutrients.

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More information on How to eat for health

Read more from womenshealth.gov

  • BodyWorks: A Toolkit for Healthy Teens and Strong Families - This program is designed to help parents and caregivers of teens improve family eating and activity patterns. The toolkit gives parents tools to make small, specific behavior changes to stop obesity and help maintain a healthy weight.
  • Heart Healthy Eating Fact Sheet - This fact sheet provides information on how healthy eating habits can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. It explains what a healthy portion is and how to make heart-healthy food choices.

Explore other publications and websites

  • ChooseMyPlate.gov - This interactive site is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and gives information on how much of each food group you should eat each day. It also includes tips and resources for planning a well-balanced and healthy diet.
  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 - This report provides advice about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risks for major chronic diseases.
  • Food Ingredients & Colors (Copyright © International Food Information Council) - This brochure provides information about food additives such as coloring, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners. The brochure also answers common questions about food and color additives.
  • Fruit & Vegetable Benefits - This website provides an overview of the health benefits gained by eating fruits and vegetables daily. It has links to more information on how many fruits and vegetables to eat, how using them will help manage weight, and charts to help you learn which nutrients are in certain foods.
  • Let's Eat for the Health of It - This brochure has tips to help you build a healthy plate, cut back on unhealthy foods, eat the right amount of calories, and be physically active.
  • Mediterranean Diet: Choose This Heart-Healthy Diet Option (Copyright © Mayo Clinic) - Research shows that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces risk of heart disease. This website describes the parts of a Mediterranean diet and gives tips to help you switch to this healthy style of eating.
  • Ten Tips Nutrition Education Series - This series has fact sheets with tips that can help you get started toward a healthy diet. Choose a change that you can make today, and move toward a healthier you.

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Content last updated: June 17, 2008.

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