While social, emotional and health factors play a role in the foods people choose to eat, the foods we most commonly eat are often those we enjoy the most. As we celebrate National Nutrition Month 2014® along with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we encourage you to make taste a priority when preparing nutritious meals.
Although what we eat is influenced by taste, it is important to balance the foods we like with those that provide the nutrients we need. Nutrient-rich foods and beverages provide vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and other essential nutrients that offer health benefits with relatively few calories. While taste drives most food choices, eating nutrient-rich foods that provide the most nutrition per calorie is one of the best ways to improve the way we eat. The good news is that taste and nutrition can work together, by combining the two we are able to create healthy meals that follow MyPlate recommendations.
Improving our overall health requires a lifelong commitment to healthful lifestyle behaviors, emphasizing sustainable and enjoyable eating practices and daily physical activity. When we practice healthy lifestyles, no food or beverage is “bad” when they are balanced within our individual energy and nutrient needs. However, we do need to choose more foods that include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, fat-free or low-fat dairy, beans, nuts and seeds in the appropriate amounts. While increasing these healthy choices, we should limit added sugars and fats such as regular sodas, fruit or sports drinks, and cut back on cakes, cookies, ice cream, cheese and fatty meats like sausages, hot dogs and bacon. There is no need to give these foods up entirely, but it is important to find ways to enjoy smaller amounts less often. The key to success for a healthy lifestyle is to enjoy the healthy foods we eat and the physical activities we engage in order to maintain these habits for years to come.
Here are some 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, to add natural sweetness.
- Make sandwiches on whole-grain bread; look for the word “whole” in the ingredients such as whole wheat or whole rye. Add slices of tomato and cucumber to lean roast beef, ham, turkey or chicken and an avocado slice instead of mayo.
- 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 or yogurt parfaits made with fresh fruits.
- Drink nutrient-rich, low-sugar beverages such as low-fat or fat-free milk, unsweetened iced tea or the occasional 100% fruit juice.
- Top foods with chopped nuts or reduced-fat sharp cheddar to get added crunch, flavor and nutrients.
- 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, 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. Try chili with a dollop of low-fat yogurt or sour cream and serve 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.
Achieving balance and building a healthier diet should be simple and stress-free. Selecting nutrient-rich foods and beverages first is a great way to make better choices that will fit within your daily eating plan. This March, during National Nutrition Month®, experiment with new flavors and flavor combinations and “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”
If you need more help, a registered dietitian nutritionist or a dietetic technician, registered, have the ability to translate sound science into helpful nutrition information that you can understand and apply to your everyday life. Find one near you at eatright.org.
Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, National Nutrition Month 2014® found at: eatright.org