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Fitness and Nutrition

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Improving your food choices

middle-aged asian couple cooking together in a home kitchen

There are many small ways that you can change your eating habits so that you eat healthier foods. Consider these tips when choosing or preparing your foods.

At home

  • Fry foods with a little bit of olive oil rather than butter, margarine, or lots of vegetable oil.
  • Use canola oil when baking.
  • Prepare fish such as salmon or mackerel twice a week.
  • Sprinkle slivered nuts or sunflower seeds on your salads instead of bacon bits.
  • Eat Canadian bacon or lean ham instead of bacon.
  • Try low-fat frozen yogurt instead of regular ice cream.
  • Eat broiled, baked, roasted, or grilled chicken without the skin instead of fried chicken.
  • Add lettuce, tomato, and other vegetables, rather than cheese, to your sandwiches.
  • Eat extra lean ground beef (5% fat) instead of regular ground beef (25% fat).
  • Try whole-wheat tortillas instead of regular flour tortillas.
  • Try whole-wheat or multigrain bread instead of white bread.
  • Try low-fat, low-sodium crackers instead of regular crackers.
  • Eat water-packed rather than oil-packed tuna.
  • Use mustard, catsup, or low-fat mayonnaise on your sandwiches instead of regular mayonnaise.
  • Try making sandwiches with 95% to 97% fat-free lunch meats.
  • Use lemon juice, herb vinegar, or reduced-calorie salad dressings on your salads.
  • Choose nonhydrogenated peanut butter. You can tell that it's nonhydrogenated if there's some oil on top of the peanut butter. Hydrogenated peanut butter is all solid at room temperature.
  • Eat lower-fat cookies, such as graham crackers or fig bars.
  • Choose canned fruits packed in water rather than syrup.

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Eating out

In any restaurant:

  • Ask for salad dressing, gravy, or sauce on the side and use sparingly.
  • Choose main dishes that are broiled, baked, roasted, or grilled, instead of deep-fried or pan-fried.
  • Don't be afraid to make special requests, such as asking that something be cooked with less fat.

When ordering a sandwich:

  • Add lettuce and tomato.
  • Ask for whole-wheat or rye bread.
  • Choose mustard instead of mayonnaise.

At Chinese restaurants:

  • Have brown rice instead white rice.
  • Order a side dish of steamed broccoli.

At fast food places:

  • Order smaller burgers. Skip the cheese and bacon.
  • Order a grilled chicken sandwich.
  • Order garden or grilled chicken salads with low-fat dressings.
  • Choose water or low-fat milk instead of regular soda.

At pizza places:

  • Ask for vegetable toppings, such as mushrooms or peppers, rather than meat toppings.
  • Get whole-wheat crust.
  • Request half the cheese.
  • Eat a salad with low-fat dressing in place of a slice of pizza.

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More information on Improving your food choices

Explore other publications and websites

  • How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label - This fact sheet explains how to use nutrition labels to make quick, informed food choices that contribute to a healthy diet.
  • Just Enough for You: About Food Portions - This booklet provides information on the difference between a portion and a serving. It also includes tips on how to control portion size at home and when eating out.
  • Let's Eat for the Health of It - This brochure has tips to help you build a healthy plate, cut back on unhealthy foods, eat the right amount of calories, and be physically active.
  • Ten Tips Nutrition Education Series - This series has fact sheets with tips that can help you get started toward a healthy diet. Choose a change that you can make today, and move toward a healthier you.
  • Test Your Knowledge on Portion Sizes - This slideshow has pictures of portions of food from 20 years ago versus today. You can test your knowledge of how many calories are in food and tips on how to help lower your calorie intake.
  • What Counts as a Cup? - This chart shows simple fruits and vegetables with corresponding cup amounts to help inform how much fruits and vegetables you get in your diet.

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Content last updated: June 17, 2008.

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