What does healthy eating mean to you? Does it conjure up images of plates full of fruits and vegetables – with no potatoes or meat in sight? Does it mean giving up all desserts? How about ignoring the daily pull of the drive through, or the goodies you find on the break room table at work?

Healthy eating actually means learning how to strike a balance between eating more of the foods that are good for you and less of the foods that aren’t so healthy for you. But how do you know which is which, and how much can you eat?

Even the healthiest eaters need some guidance on how to best fill their plates for healthy eating. Choosemyplate.gov, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a visual resource – showing you how to fill your plate at meal time – with half your plate full of fruits and veggies; and the other half full of whole grains and lean proteins.

In addition, you can follow these guidelines to work toward optimum health and better eating.

Eat more fruits and vegetables. One of the first recommendations for healthy eating is to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet. What does “plenty” mean? The recommendation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is to fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies.

Eating fruits and veggies helps prevent high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks and obesity. According to a report from the World Health Organization, up to 2.7 million lives around the world could be saved, each year, if people would eat the basic recommended amount of these foods.

It’s also important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, so that you get as many vitamins and minerals as possible. The easiest way to do that is to include as many colors as possible in your diet: red, such as cherries, tomatoes, strawberries, watermelon and beets; yellow, such as bananas and squash; green, such as broccoli, spinach, cabbage and leafy greens; purple, such as eggplant and grapes; orange such as sweet potatoes, kumquats and oranges; and the list goes on. Eating a variety of colors also helps ensure that you won’t get bored with eating fruits and veggies.

Reduce processed foods for less sodium, sugar and fat. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but food is healthier if you eat it as close to fresh as possible and if you prepare it at home. Pre-made foods, such as breads, crackers, cookies, French fries, cured meats and frozen dinners, contain extra ingredients that you don’t need, including sodium, sugar, saturated fats, trans fats and preservatives.