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Published: Tuesday, 11/6/2007

Nutrient-rich foods easy to find

Skip the processed foods and select as many whole foods as you can each day. Nutrient-dense or nutrient-rich foods are as easy to choose as basic foods. It's a topic that was discussed at one of the sessions at the American Dietetic Association Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Philadelphia this fall.

Nutrient-dense or nutrient-rich foods should be consumed for a satisfying diet that helps maintain weight and improve overall health for men and women of all ages.

Nutrient density is important because even though the population is overweight, some people are undernourished, according to Karen Bakies, registered dietitian with the American Dairy Association Mideast, who attended the conference.

If you drink pop and eat candy, cookies, and chips all the time, you'll have plenty of calories but will lack calcium, Vitamin A, D, C, and assorted other nutrients. It's better to use those calories on nutrient-rich foods such as:

•Brightly colored fruits and 100 percent fruit juice.

•Vibrant colored vegetables.

•Whole, fortified, and fiber-rich grain foods.

•Low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt.

•Lean meats, skinless poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts.

In addition no food groups should be excluded, since within each food category there will be some foods that are more nutrient-rich than others, according to Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition, who spoke at the nutrient density session.

From the Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition comes the advice that half of the grains from the USDA's My Pyramid Grain Group should be whole grains.

Try to make your breakfast nutrient-rich with fiber with a whole-grain cereal, calcium from milk, and vitamin C, folate, and potassium from orange juice.

Nutrient-rich lunch items include cream soups made with fat-free milk instead of water; sandwiches on fiber-rich bread. Garnish with nutrient-rich romaine lettuce.

For dinner, make your salads colorful with dark greens such as spinach or romaine, cherry tomatoes, yellow or orange peppers, and purple onions. Top with chopped hard-cooked egg or shredded carrots. The well-dressed burger should be on a whole-grain bun topped with romaine and sliced tomatoes; trade the fries for a three-bean salad. Have a veggie pizza or a whole-wheat pasta primavera loaded with vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, and shredded carrots.

Note that the recommendations focus on eating more whole foods instead of processed foods, says Mrs. Bakies.

Need a snack? Make a lean roast beef, ham, or turkey roll-up. Have a frozen 100 percent fruit juice bar or trail mix made with bite-sized shredded wheat squares, sunflower seeds, and dried blueberries.

At vending machines or convenience stores, look for packages of baby carrots or celery sticks, mozzarella sticks, packets of nuts or trail mix, fig bars, and animal crackers. Stash a jar of peanut butter and a few crackers in your desk drawer.

At fast food places opt for small burgers, roasted veggie wraps, entree salads, bean burritos, baked potatoes topped with broccoli or chili (with only a sprinkle of cheese), and bags of sliced apples or other fruit. In the office cafeteria, choose a lean roast beef, ham, or turkey sandwich piled high with veggies, or the salad bar of veggies, avocado slices, and fruit.

When dining out, start with minestrone soup, gazpacho, or raw vegetables; salads made with deep greens; lean entrees and sauces on the side. Skip the baked potato; otherwise top it with salsa or veggies. Skip the bread or skip the dessert. Seek out the vegetables. Sometimes they are hard to find.

With all of these nutrient-rich choices, you're entitled to some fun foods. Be wise about portion size - eat smaller servings of fried chicken and prime rib, and one less slice of pizza. Always pick the smallest piece. You deserve it! And don't forget to exercise.



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