How To Set
Food Priorities

Most people want to eat well—but what does that really mean? There are as many different food priorities as there are different people. Some people have health issues they must consider, like diabetes or high cholesterol levels. Some people choose to eat a vegetarian diet, eat only organic, become locavores, or join the slow food movement. All of these are valid priorities, but they may not be right for everyone.

Woman with farmer's market salad


When setting food priorities, consider what tastes good to you, what foods or traditions are part of your culture, what health issues you may have, and what is convenient or possible right now given your personal time and money constraints. Special diets and ethical concerns aside, here are five food priorities for healthy eating that most of us can put into practice.

1Eat real food

According to the American Dietetic Association, a healthy eating plan emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat free or low fat dairy products. It also includes lean meats and poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. The wide variety of nutrients and fiber we get from real food sources beats heavily processed products hands down.

2Eat regular meals

Regular meals (and snacks) play an important role in keeping your blood sugar steady and your system energized. If you wait too long between meals, you may find yourself so hungry you make bad choices—or you simply eat too much trying to satisfy the aching void that is your stomach.

3Eat the rainbow

Try to eat at least five servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables a day. Brightly colored fruits and veggies contain the antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals you need to stay healthy and reduce your risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

4Take pleasure in eating

Pay attention—savor the tastes and textures of your food. Sit down while you eat instead of standing at the kitchen counter or in front of the fridge. A meal eaten mindfully is much more satisfying.

5Apply the 80/20 rule

It's important not to beat yourself up if you don't always eat the way you should. Make 80 percent of your food choices healthy ones and this gives you some wiggle room, especially if restricting certain foods causes you to want them even more. Knowing you can have that chocolate cake or other less than ideal treat without causing serious diet mayhem reduces feelings of guilt—and might just stave off a full-fledged binge.

Food priorities can help you eat a healthy diet and feed your family well, while taking into account your lifestyle, budget, and health concerns. Think about what factors are important to you and set your food priorities accordingly.

Healthy snack ideas

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