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Eating Nutrient Dense Foods

Content by: Erin Nugent, RD

What does it mean to be eating nutrient dense foods? And, why does it matter? Nutrient dense means... Read more here!

Eating Nutrient Dense Foods


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Everyone should enjoy food, but portions often need to be managed. The definition of nutrient dense is high amounts of vitamins and minerals for the calories consumed. Choosing a nutrient-rich diet can be simple and easy by choosing foods within the five basic food groups and limiting added sugar, sodium and saturated fat.

Research indicates that ongoing eating patterns have the greatest impact on health, rather than individual foods or any specific occasion. Following a restrictive dietary pattern that cannot be maintained offers limited health benefits. Instead, choose an overall nutrient dense diet that can be tailored to meet personal preferences, cultural needs and budget restraints.

Identify nutrient-rich foods by first considering the food groups:
🍎 Brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
🌾 Fiber-rich whole grains.
🥛 Low-fat dairy products.
🍗 Lean meats and a variety of protein sources (beans, nuts, seeds, fish).

Food and meal preparation are important considerations when aiming for a nutrient dense diet.
1. Choosing whole, or minimally processed, foods for snacks is an easy way to consume nutrient-rich foods. Take a few minutes to wash and cut fruits and vegetables. Store them within easy reach and use throughout the week.

2. Replace common convenience foods with a more nutrient dense option. Choose whole grain bread, whole wheat tortillas, vegetable based sauces and legume based pastas. Consider a new protein in your recipe, like beans or fish.

3. Increase the nutritional value of a dish by adding additional fruits or vegetables. Consider adding extra veggies to a soup recipe or topping your pizza with vegetables. Mix fresh fruit in with a bowl of cereal or add vegetables on top of your burger.

4. For dessert utilize the naturally sweet flavors of fruit. Create your own low-sugar recipes.
When reaching for beverages, water is best for hydration. Low-fat milk can also provide needed calcium and phosphorus.

5. When dining out, avoid fried items or dishes covered in creamy sauces. Look for dishes loaded with vegetables and whole grains.

Great Tip!

Small consistent changes over time lead to significant improvements in dietary patterns. Start by choosing one or two ways to increase the nutrient value in your current eating patterns.

Did you know?

Eating nutrient dense foods is healthy and requires lesser portions to feel satisfied.

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