Many of us are searching for foods that will give us a punch of nutrition in smaller amounts of food (and calories), maybe even you.
People trying to lose weight and reduce the calories they consume don’t want to compromise their nutritional health.
Aging seniors who can’t eat as much as they once did still need essential nutrients to stay well and manage chronic disease.
The struggle is real! Deciding which foods to eat so we can maximize the amount of nutrients compared to their calories isn’t easy.
Eating and drinking calories without nutrients is not a nutritious choice.
Reducing foods that are known as empty calorie foods (junk foods) such as candy, sugar sweetened beverages, snack foods like chips, and baked goods like cookies and cake will help you make room in your belly and your calorie budget for foods packed with the nutrients your body needs.
Choosing Nutrient Dense Foods
Nutrient-dense foods don’t have to break the budget, take a lot of meal preparation, or be boring.
Eating more fresh, healthy foods in place of convenience items that are usually higher in fat, calories, and sodium, will help you get more nutrition each day.
A few changes such as these to each meal can make a big difference in your health!
- For dessert, pick a piece of fruit not a piece of pie
- Use low fat milk instead of whole milk
- Choose lean ground beef instead of regular fat ground beef
- Baked protein foods instead of deep fat fried
- Baked potato instead of French fries
- Oatmeal with fresh fruit instead of sugar sweetened breakfast cereal
- Wheat bread instead of white
- Spinach or kale instead of iceberg for salads
- Snack on trail mix (dried fruit, nuts) instead of chips or popcorn
- Use black beans as a side dish instead of noodles
- Try sweet potatoes instead of mashed white potatoes
- Include 3 oz. of fish like salmon at least once a week
- Add fresh fruits like berries to foods like salad, cereal, or water fusion
- Drink water in place of sweetened beverages
- Use alternate grains a few times a week like quinoa and farrow
- Add more vegetables and fruits to meals as you decrease fats (add a rainbow)
Calories Versus Nutrients
Making choices for your health every time you eat, whether it is a meal or a snack, will help you maintain wellness now and in the future.
Not picking foods just because their calories may be the “right” amount may not help you get all the nutrients you need for overall health and proper body functioning.
For example, these are all 100 calorie servings:
Watermelon — 2 cups diced
Edamame (soy beans) — ½ cup shelled
Avocado — ½
Hard-boiled egg — 1½ eggs
Brown rice — ½ cup cooked
9 Lay’s® chips .– ⅔ bag
M&Ms® Candies — about 23 pieces
Coca-Cola® — 8 fl oz or ¾ standard 12 oz can
Mini pretzels — 18
Tortilla chips and salsa — 7 chips and ¼ cup of salsa
Ice cream — ⅓ cup
CLIF bar® — less than half a bar
The Choice is Yours
The idea is that your choice will determine which nutrients you give your body.
There are more vitamins, minerals, fiber and other compounds such as antioxidants and phytonutrients in the whole, healthier options.
While the same calorie count, these food choices have very different amounts of nutrients — fats and sodium too especially compared to the empty calorie foods we sometimes choose.
It is important to look beyond calories when we consider which foods will make it onto our plates and our families’ meals.
Eating more nutritious foods may take a little more planning than quick pick-ups or vending machine snacks, but your health is worth the effort!