Quick Tips

Five Quick Tips for Following the Healthy Eating Plate and Healthy Eating Pyramid

1. Stay active. A healthy diet is built on a base of regular physical activity, which keeps calories in balance and weight in check. Read five quick tips for staying active and getting to your healthy weight, and 20 ideas for fitting exercise into your life.

2. Go with plants. Eating a plant-based diet is healthiest. Make half your plate vegetables and fruits (potatoes and French fries don’t count as vegetables). Cook with healthy plant oils, like olive and canola oil. Get most or all of your protein from beans, nuts and seeds, or tofu. Check out these delicious healthy recipes that bring the Healthy Eating Pyramid and Healthy Eating Plate into your kitchen.

3. Pick healthy protein sources like fish and beans, not burgers and hot dogs. Eating fish, chicken, beans, or nuts in place of red meat and processed meat can lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. So limit red meat—beef, pork, or lamb—to twice a week or less. Avoid processed meat—bacon, cold cuts, hot dogs, and the like—since it strongly raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer. Read more about choosing healthy proteins.

4. Make your grains whole grains. Grains are not essential for good health. What’s essential is to make any grains you eat whole grains, since these have a gentler effect on blood sugar and insulin. Over time, eating whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta) in place of refined grains (white rice, white bread, white pasta) makes it easier to control weight and lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Read more about whole grains.

5. Drink water, coffee, or tea—not sugary beverages—and drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. What you drink is as important to your health as what you eat. Water is the best choice, and coffee and tea, with little or no sugar, also have health benefits. (Questions about caffeine and kids? Read more.) Sugary drinks are the worst choice, because they add empty calories, leading to weight gain, in addition to raising the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Limit milk and dairy to one to two servings per day, since high dairy intake can increase the risk of some diseases, and go easy on juice, since it is high in sugar. Moderate alcohol consumption can have real health benefits for many people, but it’s not for everyone; those who don’t drink shouldn’t feel that they need to start. Read more about healthy drinks.

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The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Source is to provide timely information on diet and nutrition for clinicians, allied health professionals, and the public. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The information does not mention brand names, nor does it endorse any particular products.