Nutrition basics

Eating a variety of foods gives your body the nutrition it needs to help protect against illness and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

What to eat

A whole foods, plant forward eating plan is associated with lower risk of chronic disease, less pain and inflammation, better digestion and improved mood.

Basics of Eating for your Well Being

Combine Whole Foods for Fullness and balance 

Wellness and Healing Plate

Food can help you heal

The way you feed yourself has a great impact on how you feel, and how you heal. Food is an essential part of your healing plan. The foods you eat provide your body with nutrients. Food can also heal by connecting you with others, with the seasons and the earth, with your culture, your values, your spirituality and with your own body’s needs. Take time to prepare food at home. Make time to share meals with others.

Savor the Joy of Eating

Challenge the Dieting Mindset

Focus on foods to include. Eat consistent, balanced and flavorful meals. Stay aware of how you feel. Avoid meal plans that are too rigid such as diets in which you count calories, weigh and measure foods, or those that limit too many pleasurable foods. These eating plans can make you feel shame, deprived and hungry which can lead you to make impulsive choices or overeat. A balanced eating plan gives you permission to eat foods that you enjoy and to eat enough so you feel full longer.

Meal Planning & Preparation Tips

Quick & Simple Meal Planning

You don’t need to change everything all at once. Write down your goals, make a plan, then shop for what you’ll need. Think about the ingredients you have at home. Shop for seasonal foods and sales to help plan your menu each week. Cooking more meals at home will also help you save money.

Include a variety of choices for meals and snacks. Plan for a cold salad, a slow cooker meal, roasted vegetables, a flavorful sauce, a pot of cooked grains, cut up raw fruit and vegetables, dip, a sheet pan dinner, and easy to grab snacks.

Make extra and repurpose leftovers. Eat leftovers from dinner for lunch the next day. Mix roasted veggies with your eggs at breakfast. Top a baked potato or a grain bowl with leftover meats. Add cut up raw veggies into a stir fry.

Foods that have protein

Protein builds tissues and helps strengthen muscles.

Protein-rich Snack Ideas

  • cheese and grapes
  • cottage cheese and fruit
  • Greek yogurt and granola
  • hard boiled egg and carrots
  • hummus and peppers
  • nuts and dried fruit
  • peanut butter and apple
  • whole grain crackers and almond butter


Choose carbohydrates from mostly whole food sources. Look for 100% whole grain options more often than white flours. Choose foods with natural sugars
such as fruit and dairy products


  • Use olive oil regularly, and include foods rich in Omega-3 fats like:
  • fish and seafood (anchovies, crab, herring, mackerel, mussels, oysters, sardines, salmon,
    trout, tuna, walleye)
  • flax, chia and hemp seeds Omega-3 eggs
  • pasture-raised and grass-fed meats
  • walnuts.

For more information, see page 14 of Food for Health & Healing Guide.

Healthy Digestion

A healthy gut supports your overall health. Your gut contains trillions of bacteria that impact your health. A healthy gut is essential for your digestion, metabolism and a healthy immune system. Good bacteria in your gut can help lower inflammation, lower your risk of disease, and may improve your mood. Digestion works best when your body and mind are relaxed. A diet rich in a variety of colorful plants is best for good digestion and healthy bacteria. In times of high stress or illness eating more warm and well-cooked foods such as soup and stews can help you absorb nutrients and aid digestion.

Supporting your Gut: The 3 Ps 

Getting enough iron in your diet

Iron is an essential mineral your body needs for energy. Most people get enough iron by eating the right amounts of iron-rich foods.

Understanding sodium and low-salt cooking

Many foods contain sodium naturally, but do not taste salty. Sodium causes your body to retain, or hold, more water. This increases the work of your heart as it pumps blood through your body.

Tracking your nutrition habits

Personalize your nutrition priorities

Using a habit tracker to identify your goals can help you stay focused! 

Include colorful foods each day

The more colorful foods you eat, the more nutrients you get. There are many whole foods to choose from that add color into your meals. See if you can build a habit to get more colors at mealtimes.

Increase variety of plant foods

There are so many foods to choose from! When you eat a lot of different foods you get more nutrients, maintain a healthier digestive system and support your overall health and wellness. Try tracking how many different plant foods you are eating, and build habits towards a wide variety. 

More information

Wellness and Healing Plate

American Heart Association Mediterranean Diet

Traditional diets -

Choose My Plate

For more information about eating healthful foods, visit