How to Eat Healthy

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Teen Healthy Body – Nutrition – How to Eat Healthy

Healthy Foods to Put on Your Plate

Written by Crystal Anthony, M.Ed.

  |  Reviewed by Hina J. Talib, MD

You just walked in the door from an intense soccer practice and are headed straight to the kitchen. Your stomach is begging for food! How do you choose what and how much to eat? When we are really hungry, we often choose something out of a bag or a box that’s quick to prepare — pretzels, a bowl of cereal, a muffin. When we get hungry or tired, it is harder to make good choices and to take the time to do more complex meal prep. However, with a little knowledge and some planning ahead, you can start making smarter choices on when, what, and how much you eat.

Foods to Maximize

There are three nutritious categories of food that are important to have on your plate no matter what meal, snack, or time of day it is.

  1. Vegetables and Fruit (these are nourishing foods)
  2. Complex Carbohydrates (these are re/energizing foods)
  3. Lean Protein (these are building foods)
Foods to Minimize

There is a fourth category of food to avoid most of the time, although it is absolutely ok to indulge in a treat once in a while.

    4. Empty Foods (these are foods that taste good but have little to no nutritional value)

Best Foods to Eat Per Category
Category #1: Veggies and Fruit (Nourishing Food)




  • Dark leafy greens like Lettuce, Spinach, Kale
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Peppers
  • Green beans or Snap Peas
  • Cucumber
  • Banana
  • Apples
  • Oranges or Grapefruit
  • Peaches or Pears
  • Watermelon
  • Berries
Category #2: Complex Carbohydrates (Re/Energizing Food)

  • Whole grain breads and pasta
  • Rice, Quinoa, Oatmeal
  • Potatoes and Sweet potatoes
  • Beans and Lentils (also proteins)
  • Higher-sugar fruits like banana, mangoes, and dried fruit
Category #3: Lean Protein (Building Food)

  • Chicken and Turkey
  • Fish
  • Lean Beef
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Beans and Lentils (also complex carbs)
  • Unsweetened Yogurt
  • Protein Powder
Category #4: “Empty Food”

These are foods that taste good but doesn’t provide many health benefits.

  • Soda
  • White breads, pastas
  • Sugary cereal
  • Pastries, cakes, cookies, donuts
  • Candy
  • Fried foods
  • Sugary coffee drinks and frappes
How Much Should I Eat? 

One of the best things you can do to ensure you are eating well and getting the nutrients you need is to use your plate as a visual guide to balance your meals. For each meal, divide your plate into four quarters. Fill one quarter with your protein, another quarter with something starchy, and the final two quarters with vegetables and/or fruits. See some examples of each category below.

How much of each of the three nutritious categories is on your plate will depend on how active you are on a given day, and what you have planned in the near future.

Recovery/Easy Days: 

Days when you only do some walking or stretching*

  • Veggies and fruits = 1/2 of your plate
  • Complex carbohydrates = 1/4 of your plate
  • Lean protein = 1/4 of your plate
Medium Days: 

Days when you have a sports practice, go for a bike ride, or play some pick-up basketball with friends

  • Veggies and fruits =1/3+ of your plate
  • Complex carbohydrates = 1/3+ of your plate
  • Lean protein = 1/4 of your plate
Hard Days: 

Days with a game or a race, an extra hard practice, or many hours of physical activity

  • Veggies and fruits = 1/4 of your plate
  • Complex carbohydrates = 1/2 of your plate
  • Lean protein =1/4 of your plate

*When you serve yourself lunch or dinner, make sure the ratios on your plate reflect your activity for the day! The o