Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

Which foods are considered nutrient dense?

Thanks for that great question! We are all trying to eat better, manage our weight and help our family members make good choices too. One way to really capitalize on the calories we eat, is to pick foods that are nutrient dense.

What Does Nutrient Density Mean Anyway?

Nutrient dense foods are those that contain a lot of different nutrients compared to the number of calories. Nutrient dense foods would be those that have a punch of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals as well as healthy carbohydrates and lean protein sources without loading on the calories. Nutrient dense foods are generally whole foods such as brightly colored fruits and vegetables, which have not been highly processed or refined. A good rule of thumb is the lighter the color of the food, the fewer nutrients per calorie. Foods with added fat and sugars have more calories than nutrients as well.

Nutrient Dense Food Choices

  • Fruits including whole fruits and 100% fruit juice (vibrantly colored)
  • Vegetables (deep, rich colored)
  • Whole Grains, fortified and fiber rich
  • Low fat or no fat dairy foods including yogurt, Greek yogurt, milk and cheeses
  • Lean protein foods including fish, poultry, pork, beans, eggs, nuts and beef

While you choose nutrient dense foods over those that are high in calories but lacking in nutritional content, don’t forget to limit the amount of fat, especially saturated and trans fat, in the foods you select. Also avoid foods with added sugars and salt in order to maintain a healthy overall intake.

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we all eat a variety of healthy nutrient-dense foods and fluids so planning meals with these foods for ourselves and our families will keep us all on the road to wellness.

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