Making the best food choices can be simple

Written by Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, FADA, director of nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis

The internet is full of diet proclamations, new diet books and promised answers to eternal youth and or health but when you look at all of these claims you often see that each might be a bit different than the next – what are the facts to making the best food choices? The science of nutrition is really very simple and fortunately researchers do offer guidelines on what the best food choices should look like, those guidelines are the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

What you will see in the current guidelines—2010 is still the most recent set—is a strong focus on more plant foods with a smaller balance of leaner, lower fat animal food choices. Plant foods provide us with a wide variety of nutrients and added health benefits from the phytonutrients that they contain. Choosing more plant foods also provides us with more fiber which can help us feel full longer so that “absent-minded” eating is not as common. If you want to make the shift to better for you eating consider these tips.

  • Aim for one-half of your plate from fruits and vegetables
  • Choose more darkly colored or strongly flavored fruits and vegetables—red peppers, cantaloupe, broccoli, etc.
  • Lean meat, poultry, and fish can fit just make sure your portion is less than one-fourth of your plate
  • Substitute plant protein like beans, nuts, nut butters and seeds a few times a week for the animal protein on your plate—but watch portions
  • Dairy is important for health so make sure you add it—or some soy milk—to your day
  • Space meals and snacks three to four hours apart to help you control overeating and to feel more satisfied in-between meals
  • Always put food on a plate before eating. Eating out of bags or boxes often means you overeat since you can’t visualize the portion you are eating

In addition to these tips remember that better for you eating is about a lifestyle, not a one week diet, a quick-fix routine or a “perfect” plan. Balancing these tips throughout your week will help you choose better for you options, feel good about your choices and meet your nutrient needs.

For more help visit