What's nutrient-rich eating? Just consider a 100 Calorie Pack of Hostess Twinkie Bites. Sure, they only contain 100 calories, 2.5 grams (g) fat, 1 g saturated fat and 160 milligrams of sodium in three tiny cakes, but what kind of nutritional reward do you get for that 100-calorie investment? Check out the ingredient list and you'll find a string of processed, refined ingredients, cuing you to the fact that those 100 calories are basically empty ones.
Nutrient-rich foods have a high nutrient-to-calorie ratio, making them nutrition bargains, rather than only calorie, fat or sodium bargains. With so many food labels screaming "low"—from low-fat to low-sugar—it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking those foods are naturally healthful choices.
While it's good to keep your intake of calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium under control, you can do that the nutrient-rich way or the nutrient-poor way. The nutrient-rich foods approach is fostered by the Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition (NRFC), a partnership of researchers, communication experts, and agricultural commodities working together to help people live a more healthful lifestyle.
According to Adam Drewnowski, Ph.D., Director for the Center for Obesity Research and Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington and principal researcher for NRFC, "We have an overweight and undernourished public. People are consuming too many empty calories. We need to shift to a nutrient-rich tipping point with foods that have more nutrients per calorie and by making each calorie count more."
Here are some tips to infuse your diet with nutrient-rich foods:
- Focus on whole foods—foods and ingredients that often don't come in fancy packaging, such as produce and fresh meats.
- Shop the perimeter of the store, where you'll find produce, grains, dairy and meats.
- Pile your plate high with a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
- Opt for a variety of whole grains in breads, side dishes and cereals.
- Remember that lean meat, skinless poultry, fish and eggs are the epitome of nutrient-rich proteins.
- Reduce-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese are nutrient-rich superstars.
- Tap into legumes, including lentils, soybeans, dried peas and a variety of beans for a nutrient-rich protein source.