You can’t turn on the TV in January without seeing loads of commercials for diet plans. Those that give you special food, those that tell you what not to eat, those that provide supplements—there are all kinds. But if you’re serious about eating healthier, the trick is there is no trick. You have to consciously select healthier foods to eat at each meal. You definitely don’t need to diet to eat healthy.
Healthy eating explained
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the ultimate authority on what foods are best to eat at all stages in your life. Kids have their parents and others as an external voice keeping them in check, but as we grow up into adulthood, it can be harder to eat what’s right because no one will tell us not to.
The Choose My Plate website offers a quick visual guide to understanding the ideal ratio of portions at each meal. While it’s not an exact rule, it is a helpful place to start.
So once you know what your portions of protein, vegetables/fruit, grains and dairy should look like, how do you make sure you eat the right amounts each day? Staying on track can require a little more than a chart, that’s why the USDA also has a suite of tools designed to be used throughout your healthy eating journey.
Choose My Plate Tools
- BMI Calculator
- Daily Checklist by age and calorie intake
- USDA recipes
- Super Tracker food and activity tracker
Some additional tips include using smaller plates to help control portion sizes. That way you don’t have to eliminate the foods you love, just limit how much you eat of them. Incorporating dairy or fortified non-dairy milks products into your diet can help strengthen your bones—key for women as they age. Drinking water throughout the day quenches your thirst with no added calories. Sometimes you might even find that you’re just thirsty when you thought you were hungry! Pay attention to ingredients in your favorite foods. Ignorance is bliss, but knowing what you’re eating will help you make healthier choices.
And finally, cooking at home is a great way to cut back on unnecessary ingredients, because you’re in control of the pan! Here’s a fun recipe from the USDA website you can try on your own.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Makes: 4 Servings
Bread, cheese, and kale make up this savory bread pudding. Bake ahead of time and slice for quick meals and snacks.
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion (peeled and chopped)
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups low-fat milk
- 1/2 cup shredded low-sodium mozzarella or cheddar cheese
- 4 cups bread (stale or dried)
- 3 cups chopped raw kale
- 2 cups frozen butternut squash
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease the baking pan.
- Put a skillet over medium heat and when it is hot, add the oil. Add the onion and cook about 10 minutes, until tender.
- While the onion is cooking, put eggs and milk in a bowl and mix until combined.
- Add the cheese, bread, kale, squash and salt and mix well. Let the mixture stand at least 15 minutes until the bread absorbs most of the milk.
- When the onion has finished cooking, add it to the bread mixture and mix well.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and transfer to the oven.
- Bake until lightly browned and set, 50-60 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Notes: It is important to use stale bread that has dried out. If you don’t have stale bread, put fresh bread in a preheated 250°F oven and bake until dried, usually about 15 minutes.