Good nutrition

Good nutrition is essential for a healthy body. Eating well-balanced meals and snacks will help you feel your best.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a healthful diet is one that:

  • focuses on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk
  • includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts
  • is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars

In general, you should:

  • Eat smaller portion sizes.
  • Make half of your grains whole.
  • Make half of your plate vegetables and fruits.
  • Drink fat-free or low-fat milk.
  • Eat lean proteins.

How to plan your meals and snacks

When you are planning your meals and snacks, try to think about what your plate should look like.


Look at the plates below to see examples of healthful meals and snacks.


As you plan your meals and snacks, consider which foods you should eat more often and less often. Remember: Any food you eat in excess can lead to weight gain.

Food group Use more often (each portion below equals one serving) Use less often

Grains group (Make half your grains whole.)

  • 1 slice bread or tortilla
  • 1/2 bagel, English muffin, pita
  • 4 to 6 crackers
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cooked cereal, bulgur
  • 1/3 cup cooked rice, pasta
  • 3/4 cup dry unsweetened cereal
  • croissants, sweet rolls, doughnuts, muffins, Danish pastry, biscuits, high-fat crackers, regular tortilla chips, fried tortillas
  • granola-type cereals

Vegetable group (Vary your veggies.)

  • 1 cup raw vegetables
  • 1/2 cup cooked vegetables or vegetable juice
  • vegetables with butter or margarine, cream or cheese sauces

Fruit group (Focus on fruits.)

  • 1 small fresh fruit
  • 1/2 cup canned fruit in light syrup or its own juices
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup fruit juice
  • fruits in pastry (like pies), coconut
  • high in sugar: dried fruit, juices or drinks sweetened with sugar, fruit canned in syrup, large amounts of fruit juice

Diary group (Get your calcium-rich foods.)

  • 1 cup milk: fat-free or 1 percent
  • 1 cup low-fat or fat-free yogurt, sweetened with artificial sweetener
  • 2 percent or whole milk
  • yogurt with added sugar

Protein group (Go lean with protein.)

  • 2 to 3 ounces cooked lean meat, poultry (without skin) or fish
  • 1/2 cup canned tuna packed in water
  • 1 ounce low or fat-free cheese
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter
  • bacon, sausage, hot dogs, luncheon meats
  • chicken or turkey with skin
  • canned tuna packed in oil
  • high-fat cheeses
Food groups 1,500 calories 1,800 calories 2,000 calories
Protein group (cooked weight) 6 ounces 6 to 9 ounces 6 to 9 ounces
Vegetable group 4 servings 4 or more servings 4 or more servings
Fruit group 3 servings 4 servings 4 servings
Grain group 6 servings 8 servings 10 servings
Dairy group 3 servings 3 servings 3 servings
Fats* (not an official food group) 4 teaspoons 5 teaspoons 5 teaspoons
*Consider using sources of healthful fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and light trans fat-free margarine most of the time.

For more information about eating healthful foods, visit

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Prediabetes: Reducing Type 2 Diabetes Risk Through a Lifestyle of Good Nutrition and Activity, first edition, dia-ah-94403
Reviewed By: Allina Health Patient Education
First Published: 04/02/2009
Last Reviewed: 01/28/2019