What To Eat: The Big Picture

What to Eat: The Big Picture
Take a look at (our rather janky) Healthy Living Guide Logo. There's actually some important information in there. Do you see the "X" in the middle? Above and below, in the big sections, are vegetables and grains. The two small side sections have protein and fruit. That's proportionately how you should be eating.

You'll notice that there isn't a section for Sugars, Sweets or Fats. Those are empty calories. If you want to stay healthy, limit empty calories to 100 calories a day. That's about 1 small snack.

So as you decide what to eat during the day, think about those proportions. High nutrient, good calorie foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein foods contain the nutrients you need without too many calories.

Here are some ideas to get you on the right path:

Fruits and Vegetables:

  • Eat red, orange, and dark-green vegetables, such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli, in main and side dishes.
  • Eat fruit, vegetables, or unsalted nuts as snacks—they are nature’s original fast foods.

Making Dairy Work:

  • Switch to skim or 1% milk - they have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories.
  • Try calcium-fortified non-GMO soy products as an alternative to dairy foods. 
  • Try Fat Free Greek Yogurt. Its basically regular yogurt that has less moisture. It also has 23 grams of protein per serving!

Smart Grains

  • Choose 100% wholegrain cereals, breads, crackers, rice, and pasta.
  • Check the ingredients list on food packages to find whole-grain foods.

Protein - Here to pump you up!

  • Twice a week, make seafood the protein on your plate. 
  • Eat beans, which are a natural source of fiber and protein. 
  • Keep meat and poultry portions small and lean.


Eliminate empty calories by cutting back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt. Eating foods that have mostly added sugars and fats loads you with extra calories you don’t need and changes your metabolism to a fat storing mode. Too much sodium may increase your blood pressure.

Dissolved Sugars are Sneaky Bastards. This isn't jus soft drinks. It's fruit drinks, Super Sweet Coffeeccino's from your favorite coffee bar and more. Seriously, just drink water. Personally, I like sparkling water (buy in a bottle or make with a Soda Stream) and a twist of lime. There are 0 calories in that drink. Conversely, there are about 10 teaspoons of sugar a can of soda.

Cake-like, frosting laden dessert? Think again. Try plain fruit for dessert.

Look for hidden sugars using the ingredients list. When a sugar is close to first on the ingredients list, the food is high in added sugars. Some names for added sugars include sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose.

You may want to look out for salt (sodium) in foods you buy. But you may not, recent studies seem to be mixed. But if you're concerned or your doctor has advised you to limit your sodium intake, compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals—and choose the foods with lower numbers. Add spices or herbs to season food without adding salt.

Saturated or solid fats are the death of me. I dropped 40 lbs by reducing solid fats to 10g a day. Some people just have a hard time processing them. I'm one of them. Look for sources of saturated fats—such as cakes, cookies, ice cream, pizza, cheese, sausages, and hot dogs—and put them on a 1 small serving a day list. Hell, be choosy.

You shouldn't eat an entire Hershey's chocolate bar or a sheet cake from Costco. But you can have a small serving. But why choose crap? I only eat high quality dark chocolates and gourmet cakes. If I can only have a small serving, I'm going to make sure it's worth it.

You can also switch out solid fats (like butter) for olive oil in cooking,and recipes.

Solid fats can be hard to find, but here are some places they hide:
Beef, pork, and chicken fat, Butter, cream, and milk fat Coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils Hydrogenated oil, Partially hydrogenated oil Shortening, Stick margarine.


Finding out how much you should eat is easy with a lot of the available apps. myfitnesspal and LoseIt! both make it easy for you to set a goal and reach it. Don't worry about calculating items. Both apps put the data you need to make smart decisions in the palm of your hand.

One Simple Trick
Drink an 8 oz glass of water before you start your meal. It'll help fill you up. Then you can avoid oversized portions, use a smaller plate, bowl, and glass and stop eating when you are satisfied a lot easier. Cook more often at home, where you are in control of what’s in your food.

When eating out, choose lower calorie menu options.
Check posted calorie amounts. Choose dishes that include vegetables, fruits, and/or whole grains. Order a smaller portion or share when eating out.

You don't have to pay anyone to lose weight and stay healthy. Just make smart decisions. If you know the data going in (check the nutrition label), you can figure out what works and what doesn't.

Image courtesy of Foodwings