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Healthy eating for girls

Photo of a teen girl holding an apple and a muffin.

There are low-fat diets, heart-healthy diets, high-protein diets, and low-carb diets. No wonder girls sometimes are confused about what they should and shouldn't eat. Understanding nutrition really isn't so hard, though. Check out this helpful menu:

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Some foods can help protect your health. Try to focus more on these foods.

Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals. They also have fiber, which helps you feel full and is great for you. Try to fill half your plate with a variety of fruits and veggies. You can get fresh tips on fun fruits and great veggies.

Whole grains have lots of health benefits, including possibly helping prevent heart disease. At least half your grains should be whole grains. This includes whole wheat, oatmeal, and brown rice. (It even includes popcorn — just watch out for added butter and salt.)

Fat-free and low-fat milk products are great. They are especially good for a girl during her childhood and teen years because she needs them to build strong bones. Look for fat-free or low-fat cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products. If you can't drink milk, try soy drinks fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Protein helps your body heal, gives you energy, and more. Choose a mix of different protein foods. Good options include fish and other seafood, poultry (without the skin), lean meats, beans and peas, eggs, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. Try to pick fish and shellfish in place of some meat and poultry.

You can get great tips on ways to fill your plate with healthy foods.

Who decides what's healthy?

You may wonder who figures out what you should eat. (Well, other than maybe your parents!) Every few years the government brings together experts to look at recent nutrition research. Then they create the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to make suggestions for the health of people throughout the country.

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Some foods are not good for your health if you eat too much of them. Try to have less of these.

Solid fats, which are fats that are solid at room temperature. Solid fats usually are high in saturated fat and trans fat, and eating too much of them can cause problems like heart disease. Oils that have unsaturated fat are a much healthier choice. Learn more about the different kinds of fats and the recommended amounts to eat.

Sodium is found in table salt and lots of prepared foods. Eating too much sodium can cause health problems such as high blood pressure. Get the lowdown on sodium.

Added sugars mean you're getting extra calories without any extra nutrients. Added sugars are often hiding out in your soda, cookies, candy, and sugary cereals. Read more about sugars and other carbohydrates.

Refined grains are grains that have had some of the nutrients removed. Choose whole grains because they have all the nutrients.

Cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. Check the Nutrition Facts label on foods you eat to see how much cholesterol they have. Try to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day.

How much food do you need to eat? arrow top

Eating a healthy amount of food helps your body do all the important jobs it needs to do. Eating a lot more than you need or not eating enough can prevent your body from working well.

Eating too much or too little also can stop you from being at a healthy weight. How much you need to eat depends on things like your age, sex, and how active you are. Learn more about being at a healthy weight and about why calories count.

Your body also needs a healthy mix of foods. For example, your body can't work well if you eat piles of protein and little else. The MyPlate food guide can help you figure out how much of each type of food you need.

The Hungry Hiker game lets you load a hiker's plate with different foods. If you give her the right mix, she can make it to her mountaintop!

Hungry Hiker Game

 

Content last reviewed November 05, 2013
Page last updated January 13, 2014

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