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More Key Topics

More Key Topics

Explore each of the Key Topics

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Use Oils

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Limit Added Sugars

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Limit Saturated Fat

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Limit Sodium

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About Alcohol

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Use Oils

Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature, like vegetable oils used in cooking. They come from many different plants and from fish. Oils are not a food group, but they provide you with important nutrients such as unsaturated fats and vitamin E. Choosing unsaturated fat in place of saturated fat can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels.

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A number of foods are natural sources of oils, like nuts, olives, some fish, and avocados. Most oils are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats. Foods that are mainly made of oil include mayonnaise, certain salad dressings, and soft (tub or squeeze) margarine.

The fat in some tropical plants, including coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil, are not included in the oils category because they are higher in saturated fats than other oils. For nutritional purposes they should be considered to be solid fats (see Limit Saturated Fat below). Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, lard and shortening. Solid fats come from many animal foods and can be made from vegetable oils through a process called hydrogenation.

Canola oil

Safflower oil
Corn oil Sesame oil*
Cottonseed oil Soybean oil
Grapeseed oil Sunflower oil
Olive oil Walnut oil*
Peanut oil  

*mainly used as flavoring


Limit Added Sugars

To build healthy eating habits and stay within calorie needs, individuals over age 2 should choose foods and beverages with little to no added sugars and those under age 2 should avoid them altogether. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include sugars found in milk and fruits.

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  • beverages, such as regular soft drinks, energy or sports drinks, fruit drinks, sweetened coffee and tea
  • breakfast cereals and bars
  • cakes
  • candy
  • cookies and brownies
  • ice cream and dairy desserts
  • pies and cobblers
  • sugars, jams, syrups, and sweet toppings
  • sweet rolls, pastries, and donuts

Reading the ingredient label on packaged foods can help you identify added sugars.

anhydrous dextrose fructose molasses
brown rice syrup fruit nectar pancake syrup
brown sugar glucose raw sugar
cane juice high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) sucrose
confectioner's powdered sugar honey sugar
corn syrup invert sugar sugar came juice
crystal dextrose liquid fructose white granulated sugar
dextrose malt syrup evaporated corn sweetener
maple syrup

 

Limit Saturated Fat

Saturated fat is often found in forms that are solid at room temperature – examples include milk fat, butter, or the fat inside or around meat. A few food products such as coconut oil, palm oils, or whole milk remain as liquids at room temperature but are high in saturated fat.

Cut back on saturated fat by replacing foods high in saturated fat (such as butter, whole milk, cheese, and baked goods) with foods higher in unsaturated fat (found in plants and fish, such as vegetable oils, peanuts, avocado, and salmon).

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Beef fat (tallow, suet) Butter Chicken fat
Coconut oil Cream Hydrogenated oils**
Milk fat Palm and palm kernel oils Partially hydrogenated oils**
Pork fat (lard) Shortening Stick margarine

Cut back on foods containing saturated fat including:

  • Desserts and baked goods, such as cakes, cookies, donuts, pastries, and croissants
  • Many cheeses and foods containing cheese, such as pizza, burgers and sandwiches
  • Sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs
  • Fried potatoes (French fries) – if fried in a saturated fat or hydrogenated oil
  • Regular ground beef (85% lean) and cuts of meat with visible fat
  • Fried chicken and other chicken dishes with the skin
  • Whole milk and full-fat dairy foods and dairy desserts

Limit Sodium

For most people ages 14 years and older, sodium should not exceed 2,300 mg per day. Consuming less than this level is recommended for children younger than 13 years old.

The relationship between sodium intake and blood pressure is well-documented. As one goes up, so does the other. Evidence has shown that limiting sodium intake provides benefits and may reduce one’s risk for heart disease and hypertension.

  • Mixed dishes, such as pizzas, burgers, casseroles, tacos, and sandwiches
  • Processed meats, poultry, and seafood — like deli meats, sausages, pepperoni, and sardines
  • Sauces, dressings, and condiments
  • Instant products like flavored rice, instant noodles, ready-made pasta and frozen entrees
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Sodium is found in many of the foods we commonly eat and most of us get more than we need. Adding salt to food is a source of sodium, but it is often not the main reason for high sodium intake. Sodium is already added to a lot of the foods we buy and dishes we order. You can lower the amount of sodium you eat and drink with these tips:

  • Use the Nutrition Facts label to compare the sodium in packaged foods and beverages. Choose products with less sodium.
  • Buy low-sodium, reduced sodium, or no-salt-added products.
  • Look for fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables without added sauces or seasonings.
  • Choose fresh or frozen poultry, seafood, and lean meats instead of prepared or ready-to-eat products so that you can control the amount of salt you add yourself.
  • Cook more often at home to control the sodium in your food.
  • Add herbs and spices instead of salt to recipes and dishes.

About Alcohol

Individuals who do not drink alcohol should not start drinking for any reason. There are some people who should not drink alcohol at all, such as women who are or who might be pregnant; under the legal drinking age; or who have certain health conditions.

Adults of legal drinking age who choose to drink should do so in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed. For adults who choose to drink alcoholic beverages, drinking less is better for health than drinking more.

The following count as one alcoholic drink equivalent: 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol), 5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol), or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol).

Alcoholic beverages provide calories but few nutrients and should be accounted for to stay within your calorie allowance. These calories come from both alcohol and other ingredients, such as soda, juice, and added sugars. Keep additional ingredients and portion size in mind as total calories range widely, especially in cocktails and other mixed drinks.

12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol) About 150 calories
5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol) About 120 calories
1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol) About 100 calories
7 fluid ounces of a rum (40% alcohol) and cola About 155 calories

 

For more information on calories in alcohol, see the National Institutes of Health’s Alcohol Calorie Calculator.

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Start Simple with MyPlate App

Build healthy eating habits one goal at a time! Download the Start Simple with MyPlate app today.

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MyPlate on Alexa

Get MyPlate nutrition tips for your baby or toddler on Amazon Alexa devices or the free Alexa app.

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MyPlate.gov is based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025