With so much emphasis on foods that are bad for you, the names of healthy foods may escape you. If you’re trying to put together a more nutritious diet, concentrate on the food groups featured by the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This advice encourages you to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat sources of protein. By selecting a variety of items from these groups, you’ll get the full spectrum of nutrients that your body needs each day.
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Fruits and vegetables provide dietary fiber that regulates digestive and heart health. Choose fruits such as pears and berries for high fiber content, as per the USDA Nutrient Database. To get your vitamin C, select oranges, grapefruits, pineapples, papayas, mangoes and kiwis. For potassium, eat more bananas. Dried fruits, such as raisins and apricots, provide high mineral content but should be eaten in small quantities, due to their concentrated natural sugar.
Most vegetables are naturally healthy as well, when you eat them without fats and sauces. Nutritious, high-fiber veggies include artichokes, cooked spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, also recommend beans, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflowers, carrots, peppers, and cooked greens for a variety of important vitamins and minerals.
Whole grains, such as whole oats, wheat and rye, are considered healthier foods than those made with refined grain products, such as white breads, the CDC reports. Common healthy grain foods include oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, rye crackers and ready-to-eat cereals. These offer significant amounts of fiber, protein, iron and B vitamins. Some commercial cereals have extra iron and other minerals and vitamins added to their ingredients. Less common names of whole-grain foods include bulgur, a type of wheat, and quinoa -- both make wholesome side dishes. Wild rice, buckwheat and popcorn are also whole grains.
Protein foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt also provide calcium and other nutrients. The American Heart Association suggests choosing 1-percent or fat-free dairy products as well as eating low-fat fish at least twice a week. Trout, haddock, perch, tuna and orange roughy have similar protein but less fat than marbled beef, pork and lamb. Remove skin from chicken and eat meat loin, rather than rib, cuts to stay healthy.