What is Healthy Food?

What is Healthy Food?

Publish Date March 9, 2022
Author Ashley Martinez, MFN, RDN, LD, NASM-CPT

The word “healthy” plays such a large role in our vocabulary. Whether we’re talking about a healthy mindset, healthy food, healthy environment or even healthy choices, these phrases hold a lot of meaning. But for many, the word healthy may seem ambiguous and confusing. Depending on where you’re from and what you’ve learned along the way, this term may be defined differently. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, my job is to provide more nutrition education and clarity to help you build healthy habits within your lifestyle.

Let’s start with the common question of, “Is this healthy?” What comes to mind for you when scanning the health value of a food? What criteria do you use to identify something as healthy? If you’re not sure what to look for, you might start by using the nutrition facts label as a guide, identifying certain food groups from the food pyramid or determining portion sizes via MyPlate. MyPlate, launched by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is used as a visual representation of how we can strive to eat for most meals and helps guide users to make healthier choices.

At Kroger Health, our food philosophy states all foods fit within a healthy eating pattern. Yes, that’s right, all food can be considered healthy with respect to portion size and your individual nutrition goals and needs.

Let’s review a few key principles outlined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that we should consider when building a healthy plate:

1. Fruits and Vegetables: One serving of fruit is equal to 1 cup of raw or cooked fruit, ½ cup dried fruit or 1 cup of 100% fruit juice. A serving of vegetables includes 1 cup of raw or ½ cup cooked veggies, 2 cups of leafy greens or 1 cup of 100% vegetable juice. When building your meal, aim to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. Here are some key produce products to consider, and creative ways to use them in your meals:

2. Dairy: When it comes to dairy, you want to choose a low-fat or fat-free option; these will include 3 grams of fat or less per serving. One serving of dairy is equal to 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1 cup of fortified non-dairy beverage, 1½ ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese. Lactose-free or fortified soy versions are also recommended.

  • Kroger® Vanilla Light Nonfat Greek Yogurt: Only 90 calories and packed with 13 grams of protein per serving, this yogurt is great as part of breakfast, a mid-day snack or latenight treat to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Simple Truth Organic® Vanilla Soymilk: A dairy-free, high protein alternative, vanilla soymilk tastes delicious and is similar in nutrition to cow’s milk. Use it in baked goods, coffee drinks or even have a glass for a post-workout drink.

3. Grains: A serving of grains is equal to 1 ounce of bread, 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal or ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta or cereal. Aim to make half of your grains whole grains. Pro tip: look for the word “whole” within the first ingredient listed to ensure there is less processing and more intact fiber, which is beneficial for gut health.

4. Protein: One serving of protein includes about 3 ounces of cooked meat, ¼ cup of nuts or seeds, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or ½ cup cooked beans. To best support your body, vary your proteins. An easy way to enjoy different types of proteins on different nights of the week is by doing theme nights, such as Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday and so forth.

More Healthy Eating Tips

Remember to consume more nutrient-dense foods and manage your portions when it comes to foods that contain more “empty calories” or not as much nutritional value. Enjoy more mangos, dates, kale, lentils and nuts, and consume soda, candy and baked goods in moderation.

Now that you have some fresh ideas for what makes a meal healthy, how do you continue to make healthier choices? The simple answer is: Enjoy what you eat! Experiment with food, customize your choices and reach out to a registered dietitian for individual support. We work with you to create a customized plan and counseling strategies to ensure your relationship with food is always strong and that maintaining healthy eating patterns can come naturally. A healthy relationship with food is crucial for continued success!

For more healthy nutrition advice, learn more about our team of Registered Dietitians or head to our Healthy Living page.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and not intended to provide healthcare recommendations. For concerns, please see a healthcare provider.