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How can I tell if my diet is healthy?

Yogi Cameron Alborzian
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
In modern times, we have come to rely on what is written on the nutritional information label of a package of food to define what is and is not healthy. Not too long ago, however, we didn't have food labels nor the concepts of calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, or vitamins. Yet, there were plenty of healthy people in the world. There have been for centuries.

The main way we can tell if our diet is healthy is if we're healthy ourselves. Before assessing your diet, take a look at your health. Are you sleeping well and consistently? Are you free of stress? Do you manage to never or almost never be sick? Do you never have to take medication? Do you feel energized and empowered when you wake up in the morning, rather than heavy and lethargic? If you answered "no" to even just a couple of these questions, then your diet can likely stand to be improved. The true path toward greater health, both in shaping your diet and all other aspects of your lifestyle, is to try something new and see how you feel in response.
Kristine Duncan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Registered Dietitians (RDs) are trained to assess diets, so they're a fabulous resource if there's one in your area. You can use a tool called Find a Registered Dietitian at www.eatright.org. It's also a good idea to visit an RD if you have a chronic disease like diabetes that requires a special way of eating. 

But if you're generally healthy there are also some handy tools online that will give you a basic overview of how you're doing, like if you're missing entire food groups or overeating a particular nutrient. There is a tool called SuperTracker on the United States Department of Agriculture's website www.choosemyplate.gov. You can use SuperTracker to enter a day or a week's worth of food and get valuable, individualized feedback on how you're doing. 
Dariush Mozaffarian, MD
Internal Medicine
The overall pattern of foods that you eat tells you a lot about your diet. If you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, and vegetable oils, with 1-2 servings/day of dairy foods, you have a pretty healthy diet. If you eat a lot of white bread, white rice, potatoes, sugary beverages, packaged foods, crackers, processed meats, and fast foods, your diet needs some work. A great website to learn more about your diet is The Nutrition Source (www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource), set up by the Harvard School of Public Health.

You can also track your daily intake and have it analyzed at the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) MyPyramid Tracker (www.mypyramidtracker.gov). This program is free, but you'll need to register first. Entering everything you eat can be cumbersome, but if you try it for just a few days, you'll learn more about food quality and nutritional diets.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.