While taste drives most food choices, eating nutrient-rich foods that provide the most nutrition per calorie is equally important….if not more, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to choose the most nutritionally packed foods from each of the five MyPlate food groups every day. Nutrient-rich foods and beverages provide vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and other essential nutrients that offer health benefits with relatively few calories. “When your daily eating plan include foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, fat-free or low-fat dairy, beans, nuts and seeds in the appropriate amounts, you are able to get many of the nutrients your body needs, all with relatively low amounts of calories,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy spokesperson Debbi Beauvais. Beauvais offers practical ways to add nutrient-rich foods and beverages to your daily diet:
- Make oatmeal creamier by using fat-free milk instead of water. Mix in some raisins, dried cranberries, cherries or blueberries, too.
- Make sandwiches on whole-grain bread, such as whole wheat or whole rye. Add slices of avocado, tomato or cucumber to lean roast beef, ham, turkey or chicken.
- When eating out, look for nutrient-rich choices, such as entrée salads with grilled seafood and low-calorie dressing, baked potatoes topped with salsa, grilled vegetables and reduced-fat cheese and yogurt parfaits made with strawberries and blueberries.
- Drink nutrient-rich, low-sugar beverages such as low-fat or fat-free milk or 100-percent fruit juice.
- Top foods with chopped nuts or reduced-fat sharp cheddar to get crunch, flavor and nutrients from the first bite.
- Spend a few minutes to cut and bag vegetables so they are in easy reach of every family member: some ready-to-eat favorites include red, green or yellow peppers, broccoli or cauliflower flowerets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas or radishes.
- Serve meals that pack multiple nutrient-rich foods into one dish, such as hearty, broth-based soups that are full of colorful vegetables, beans and lean meat. Make chili with a dollop of low-fat yogurt. Serve these with whole-grain breads or rolls.
- For dessert, enjoy a tropical treat by blending mango, plain low-fat milk, ice and a splash of pineapple juice, or stir chocolate syrup into a cup of coffee-flavored yogurt, freeze and enjoy.
“You should enjoy the foods you eat. In choosing nutrient-rich foods, you’ll find they are familiar, easy to find and represent the five MyPlate food groups,” Beauvais says. “Achieving balance and building a healthier diet can be simple and stress-free. Selecting nutrient-rich foods and beverages first is a way to make better choices within your daily eating plan.” Beauvais also recommends limiting added sugars and reducing the major sources of solid fats. “Drink few regular sodas, fruit drinks and sports drinks, and cut back on cakes, cookies, ice cream, cheese and fatty meats like sausages, hot dogs and bacon,” she says. “You don’t have to give up these foods entirely, but find ways to enjoy small amounts occasionally,” Beauvais says.
Tip of the Day
Walk the dog! Plan physical activities that use little or no equipment. Try walking, jogging, jumping rope and dancing or just walk the dog!