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Quick Tips: Making Healthier Food Choices

Getting Started

Eating a variety of foods can help you get all the nutrients you need. Most days, eat from each food group—grains, protein foods, vegetables and fruits, and dairy.

Moderation is your key to healthy, balanced eating. If your favorite foods are high in fat, salt, sugar, or calories, limit how often you eat them. Eat smaller servings, or look for healthy substitutes.

Use this chart as a guide for making healthier choices.

Healthier food choices

Food groups

Instead of:


Meat, poultry, and fish

  • Regular ground beef
  • Fatty or highly marbled cuts, spare ribs, organ meat
  • Poultry with skin, fried chicken
  • Fried fish, fried shellfish
  • Lunch meat, bologna, salami, sausage, hot dogs
  • Extra-lean ground beef (97% lean), ground turkey breast (Make sure there's no skin included.)
  • Meats with fat trimmed
  • Skinless chicken, baked or broiled chicken
  • Baked, broiled, or poached fish or shellfish
  • Low-fat or fat-free lunch meats

Dairy products

  • Whole milk, 2% milk, cream, nondairy creamer, half-and-half, whipping cream, whipped topping
  • Whole-milk yogurt, sour cream, ice cream
  • Most cheeses, cottage and cream cheese, sour cream, ice cream
  • Low-fat (1%) or fat-free milk
  • Low-fat or fat-free yogurt
  • Cheese with 15-20% milk fat or less

Fats and oils

  • Coconut or palm oil
  • Butter, stick margarine, lard, shortening, bacon and bacon fat
  • Canola, olive, or peanut oil
  • Soft margarines without trans fats

Breads and cereals

  • Breads with fat or butter as a major ingredient
  • High-sugar cereals; most granolas (These are usually high in fat.)
  • High-fat crackers
  • Whole-grain breads and pasta; rice, corn tortillas
  • Cereals with whole grain as the first ingredient; low-fat or fat-free granola
  • Low-fat crackers

Fruits and vegetables

  • Fried vegetables; coconut; vegetables cooked with butter, cheese, or cream sauce
  • All fruits and vegetables that do not have added sugar or fat

Sweets and desserts

  • Ice cream, milk chocolate
  • Baked goods made with coconut oil, palm oil, or hydrogenated oil
  • Frozen yogurt, fruit
  • Baked goods made with unsaturated fats


Current as of: February 28, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.