Managing your weight with healthy eating

Alternate Names

A Balanced Diet

For a balanced diet, you need the right types and amounts of foods and drinks. This keeps your body healthy.

Know how many calories your body needs every day. Know what size portions your body needs. A balanced diet also includes avoiding too much of some foods and making sure you get enough of others.

Stock up on healthy foods. Avoid foods like chips and candy. They are high in calories. They also don’t have much nutrition. Eat healthy snacks instead.

Choose different healthy foods from each food group. Eat foods from each group with every meal.


Good sources of protein include turkey and chicken with the skin removed. Buffalo meat is also good.

Eat lean cuts of beef or pork. Trim away any visible fat.

Eat plenty of fish and shellfish.

Beans are also good sources of protein, including pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, split peas, and garbanzo beans.

Nuts and seeds are part of a balanced diet. You can also eat tofu, tempeh, and other soy products.

Eggs are a good source of protein and low in saturated fat. But they are very high in cholesterol. Do not eat more than 4 eggs yolks per week. Or try eating dishes that only include egg whites.


Always choose fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) dairy products, and try to consume 3 cups per day. Cheese is also a healthy choice, but only in moderation.

Other good dairy choices are milk, buttermilk, and low-fat ice cream. Yogurt is best when it is fat-free or low-fat.

Cream cheese, cream, and butter are not healthy dairy products.



Grain products are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain. Foods made with grains include pasta, oatmeal, breads, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits.

There are two kinds of grains: whole grains or refined grains. Choose mostly whole-grain foods. They are much healthier for you because they have the entire grain kernel. These include whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal, whole cornmeal, and brown rice. Buy foods that have the words "whole grain" or "whole wheat" on the package.

Refined grains are changed to make them last longer. They also have a finer texture. This process removes fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. Refined grains include white flour, white rice, or de-germed cornmeal. Eat fewer foods that often have refined grains, such as flour and pasta.

Products with added bran, such as oat bran or bran cereal, are a good source of fiber. Just remember, they may not be whole-grain products.


Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Most of these oils are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. This is the best oil to use for cooking.

Many healthy oils come from plants, nuts, olives, or fish. Healthy choices are canola, corn, cottonseed, olive, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils.

Any fats that are solid at room temperature contain saturated fats. Saturated fats are much less healthy for you and are often high in cholesterol. Fats found in animals and some fish are higher in saturated fats.

Saturated fats may be found in some foods. Some vegetable oils also have saturated fats. These are coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils.

You can reduce saturated fats in your diet by eating only a small amount of egg yolks, hard cheeses, whole milk, cream, ice cream, butter, and fatty meats.

Trans fats and hydrogenated fats are often found in fried foods. They are also in some donuts, cookies, and crackers. Many processed foods and margarines have them.

Avoid fried foods. Fried food absorbs the fats from cooking oils. This increases your fat intake. If you do fry, cook with polyunsaturated oils.

Boil, grill, poach, and bake fish, chicken, and lean meats.

Read food labels. Avoid foods that have saturated fats, hydrogenated fats, or trans fats.


Fruits and vegetables are lower in calories. They are also packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Eating many fruits and vegetables can help you control your weight. It may also reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases.

Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and water. This helps fill you up. Replace high-calorie foods with fruits and vegetables. This can lower the calories and fat in your diet without leaving you feeling hungry.

Be careful not to eat too many fruits. They do have calories. But try to eat 2 cups (4 servings) of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables (5 servings) per day for an average 2,000-calorie per day diet. You can always add more low-calorie vegetables to your diet.

Divide your dinner plate. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fill the other half with whole grains and meat.

Replace half of the cheese in your omelets with spinach, onions, tomatoes, or mushrooms. Replace 2 ounces of cheese and 2 ounces of meat in your sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, or onions.

Add chopped broccoli, tomatoes, squash, onions, or green peppers to your dishes instead of pasta or rice. Use frozen or canned vegetables if you don’t have fresh ones.

When you feel hungry during the day, eat some baby carrots or an apple. Choose fresh fruit for dessert. Avoid cookies, cakes, or pudding.

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Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 11/12/2012
  • David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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