I keep hearing about "nutrient-rich" foods. Do you have any ideas on how I could incorporate more into my diet?
Choosing more nutrient-rich (or "nutrient-dense") foods is how you can get more bang for the buck -- or really, more bounce for the ounce -- from the foods you eat from every good group.
Calorie for calorie, these foods provide a rich amount of nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) and contain few, if any, saturated fats, trans fats and added sugars. For example, a cup of 1 percent milk contains 100 calories and offers a wide variety of nutrients: calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, riboflavin and phosphorus, and also a good amount of protein, vitamin B12 and selenium. Compare that to a cup of non-diet soft drink, which has about the same number of calories but no nutrients to speak of.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers other examples on a page on its MyPyramid web site, http://www.mypyramid.gov/steps/nutrientdensefoods.html -- click on "Making Smarter Choices -- Sample Ideas." They include choosing plain fat-free yogurt with fresh fruit instead of sweetened fruit yogurt and skinless chicken rather than chicken with skin.
Other tips for a more nutrient-rich diet include:
- Make half the grains you eat -- at least 3 ounces a day -- whole grains. Whole-grain foods are made from the entire grain kernel and thus offer the fiber, iron and B vitamins that are removed when grains are milled. Most refined grains are fortified to replace nutrients lost in the processing, but whole grains are still a better bet. Look for "whole grain" (or "whole wheat" or "whole oats," for example) at the top of the ingredients listing in breads, crackers and cereals, and choose whole-wheat pasta instead of regular.
- Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Nutritionists recommend choosing produce with a wide variety of colors to get a broad range of nutrients -- the color of fruits and vegetables often indicates what kind of nutrients they contain.
- Choose baked or roasted meats and vegetables over fried.
- Replace water with milk when making oatmeal or instant potatoes, and add dry milk to casseroles or gravy. Using milk adds some calories but offers a boost in calcium and other nutrients.
You can find more ideas from the Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition, http://nutrientrichfoods.org, which provides ideas for adding nutrients to meals -- even when eating out -- as well as shopping lists and a guide to portion control.
Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor: This column was reviewed by Julie Kennel, nutrition program manager for Ohio State University Extension in the Department of Human Nutrition in the College of Education and Human Ecology.