University of Massachusetts Amherst

It's MORE Than A Meal

Make Healthful Meals

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it's easy to make healthful meals!

Translations of Fact Sheet

Preparing foods in a healthful way does not require more time or effort. Here are some tips to select and prepare foods for better health.

When You Shop for Foods
Use food labels to compare foods and make healthy choices.

1. Read the Nutrition Facts panel to look for:

  • the serving size of the food or beverage
  • the number of servings in this size of bottle, jar, or package
  • the amount of calories and nutrients in each serving


  • 1 cup of 2% fat milk has 120 calories and 5 grams of total fat.
  • 1 cup of skim milk has 80 calories and 0 grams of total fat.

2. Read the Ingredients to see if a product is relatively high in certain ingredients. By law, ingredients are listed in order by weight. The one that adds the most weight to the product is listed first. The one that adds the least weight is listed last.


Check the ingredient list on a loaf of bread. If whole wheat flour appears first on the list, the bread is high in whole wheat flour.

3. Read the Nutrition Facts panel and look for any nutrient claims on the label.


Added fiber, reduced fat, no trans fat, or high in vitamin C.


Use less fat.

Meat, Poultry, and Fish

  • Choose lower-fat meat and poultry.
    • Ground beef that is less than 20% fat
    • Lean ground turkey in place of ground beef
    • Lean meats instead of hot dogs or bologna
  • Prepare or serve these foods with less fat.
    • Bake, broil, or roast these rather than frying them.
    • Trim off all visible fat from meats.
    • Drain fat from cooked meats.
    • Remove skin from chicken or turkey.

Milk Products

  • Use skim milk instead of whole milk.
  • Use low-fat cheese instead of regular cheese.
  • Use low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream.
  • Use ricotta cheese instead of cream cheese.

Oils, Toppings, and Condiments

  • Use less butter and margarine.
  • Use vegetable oil or non-fat cooking spray to sauté foods.
  • Use low-fat mayonnaise.
  • Use less gravy on meat and potatoes.

Soups and Stews

  • Chill, then skim off hardened fat before reheating.
  • Prepare creamed condensed soups with skim milk instead of whole milk.

Breads and Grain Products

  • Limit high-fat breads such as croissants and some muffins.
  • Replace high-fat crackers with reduced-fat crackers.

Use less sodium.

  • Buy fresh or frozen foods rather than canned foods.
  • Choose canned foods labeled “no salt,” “no sodium,” or “reduced sodium.”
  • Use fewer processed meats.
  • Omit salt or use less salt than the amount listed in a recipe.
  • Use less celery salt, seasoned salt, soy sauce, monosodium glutamate (MSG), Worcestershire sauce, and bouillon cubes.
  • Make soup stock from turkey, chicken or beef bones.
  • Try herbs, spices, and seasonings for flavors.

All-Purpose Low Sodium Seasoning #1
For meats, vegetables, and tomato-based foods

  • 2 Tbsp. dry mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp. paprika 
  • 2 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. black or white pepper
  • 2 tsp. thyme
  • ½ tsp. ground basil

Blend spices thoroughly. Store in a tightly covered airtight container.
Yield: about ½ cup


Italian Seasoning
For pasta sauces or Italian dishes

  • 4 Tbsp. dried parsley, crushed
  • 4 tsp. dried minced onion
  • 1 tsp. ground oregano 
  • 2 tsp. dried basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp. ground thyme or marjoram
  • 2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper

Blend spices thoroughly. Store in a tightly covered airtight container.
Yield: about ½ cup

Source of Recipes: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Midwest Region. What’s in a Meal? A Resource Manual for Providing Nutritious Meals in the Child and Adult Food Care Program. Fourth Edition, 2003. Reproduced by the National Food Service Management Institute.

Use less sugar.

  • Eat fresh fruit or unsweetened frozen fruit.
  • Eat fruit canned in its own juice or water.
  • Use up to 1/3 less sugar in recipes for baked goods.
  • Choose foods with fewer added sugars (brown sugar, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, or sucrose).

Add more fiber.

  • Use brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Use whole grains in mixed dishes, such as barley in stew.
  • Use rolled oats as an extender in meatloaf or meatballs.
  • Use rolled oats as breading for baked chicken or fish.
  • Replace half of the meat in chili with kidney or black beans.
  • Make soups with dried beans, split peas, or lentils.
  • Add vegetables to quiche, casseroles, and spaghetti sauce.
  • Serve fresh fruits or vegetables as a snack.

Add more fruits.

  • Top cereal with fresh fruit.
  • Add orange pieces to a tossed salad.
  • Serve cut-up fruit as a snack.
  • Mix fruit with low-fat yogurt.
  • For dessert, serve baked apples, pears, or a fruit salad.
  • Top frozen yogurt with berries.
  • Make a fruit smoothie by blending milk or yogurt with fruits.

Add more vegetables.

  • Try a main dish salad for lunch.
  • Add chopped vegetables to soups, casseroles, pasta sauces, lasagna, meatloaf, and stir-fry meals.
  • Use cooked potatoes to thicken stews or soups.

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Developed for the Massachusetts Department of Education Child and Adult Care Food Program by the University of Massachusetts Extension Nutrition Education Program. Permission is hereby granted by the Massachusetts Department of Education to copy any or all parts of this document for non-commercial educational purposes. The Massachusetts Department of Education, an Affirmative Action employer, is committed to ensuring that all of its programs and facilities are accessible to all members of the public. We do not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.