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Tips for healthy eating

Photo of teenage girl getting food in a cafeteria.

Eating healthy can make your body feel great. And it can make you feel pretty proud of yourself, too!

Does eating healthy feel tough? You can make it easier by taking a few steps at a time. Learning about nutrients is a great way to start. Another helpful tip is to learn how to read the Nutrition Facts label. You might also want to read our delicious and nutritious snack ideas. And check out the helpful tips we've cooked up for you below:

Healthy eating ideas arrow top

There are lots of ways you can try to eat healthier. Two great ways are:

Don't supersize. Americans often eat very big portions. Eating too much food can lead to being overweight and lots of related health problems. When eating out, avoid "jumbo" and "all-you-can-eat" specials. When you eat from a food package, check the label to see what counts as a serving size. Then put the amount you plan to eat on a plate instead of eating straight from the bag or container. It's easier to avoid eating more when the food is not in front of you!

Get good nutrition from the calories you eat. Too often, kids eat a lot of what some people call "empty" calories. That means a food may add to your weight but will add little or nothing much to your health. Foods with empty calories have a lot of added sugars or unhealthy fats (or both!). Here's an example: If you eat a piece of carrot cake, you won't get very much to help your health. But let's say you eat the same number of calories in the form of carrots. In that case, you get the calories plus a whole bunch of great nutrients.

How can you avoid empty calories? Try cutting back on sugary sodas, fruit drinks, ice cream, cookies, and cake.

Here are some more healthy eating tips:

  • Choose water instead of sugary drinks. Add a slice of lemon for taste.
  • Drink low-fat or non-fat milk instead of whole milk.
  • Work with an adult to cook foods in healthier ways. Try baking or broiling rather than frying.
  • Ask your family to try to buy less junk food, so you are not tempted. Even better, join the shopping trip and pick out some good-for-you foods.
  • Check out suggestions from ChooseMyPlate.gov.
  • Use our healthy eating checklist to choose and track some smart steps.

Eating at school arrow top

Here are some steps you can take to be smart about food at school.

  • Choose the salad bar, but go easy on toppings like cheese, cold cuts, and regular salad dressing. If your school doesn't have a salad bar, ask about getting one.
  • Try to limit sugary treats, like cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and brownies.
  • Pick more fruits and veggies. Try to fill half your plate with them.
  • Limit things like regular mayonnaise, salad dressing, and gravy that can make a meal less healthy. Choose low-fat versions of such foods instead.
  • Make sure to eat a healthy breakfast. That way you won't be so hungry at lunch that you can't think through your choices.
  • Check out the school's menu at home the night before instead of waiting to decide at the last minute.
  • Consider bringing lunch and healthy snacks from home. That way you will know exactly what you're getting. You might mix things up by packing some leftovers. Try using different kinds of breads for sandwiches, like a tortilla wrap, whole wheat roll, or multigrain bagel.

Get growing 

One great way to eat more fruits and vegetables is to start your own garden. Your food will be fresh — and sprinkled with a little pride! Plus, you can get a little extra exercise, too. If you don't have a lot of space, try a small potted tomato plant. Learn more about planting a garden.

Building better habits arrow top

You may want to make healthy choices. You may even know what foods to pick. But that doesn't mean healthy eating is easy. (It's not just a piece of cake!) Here are some tips to help:

  • Try not to make too many changes at one time. You might just get frustrated and give up.
  • Think about which kinds of changes would work well for you. Maybe you could switch from ice cream to low-fat frozen yogurt. Or maybe it would be easier for you to start drinking fewer sodas.
  • Make a plan. Think carefully about what you want to do and how you will do it. For example, if you want to eat less fat, decide that you will crunch carrots instead of chips. And writing down your plan can help make it work.
  • Set yourself up for success. Certain situations can make people eat more. For example, try not to eat while watching TV. You may be too distracted to realize how much you're eating. Also, don't wait until you are very hungry to eat. You probably will just grab something without thinking.
  • Have some food fun. Get your friends involved with a pop quiz, for example. See if they can guess how many chips equals a serving or how much sugar is packed in your cereal.
  • Make it a family affair. See if your whole family can try some healthy habits, like eating a nutritious dinner together at least a few times each week.
  • If you don't stick with a healthy plan, try not to criticize yourself too much. Nobody makes great choices every time. Just keep trying.

Eating well and saving money arrow top

It may seem like healthy foods can be expensive. Here are some ways to eat well and save money.

  • Help out your family by clipping coupons. You can look for them in the newspaper or online.
  • Buy in bulk. Small packages often wind up costing more. For example, you can buy a big bag of pretzels and then put single servings into small, resealable bags.
  • Go meatless. Beans are a great source of protein and are not very expensive.
  • Try frozen or canned fruits and veggies. They last longer than fresh produce. (Try to use low-sodium canned veggies, though.)
  • Use the "unit price" to find bargains. The unit price tells you what the food costs per pound, quart, or other measurement of the food in the package. It is usually posted on a small tag on the shelf below the food. Compare brands, and buy the one that has the lowest price per unit.

 

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

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