Reducing your calories with nutrient-dense foods

Want to get your bang for your buck when you are buying food? Get the most out of your money by picking nutrient-dense foods, which pack the best nutrients for a healthy body.

Many Americans are not getting the recommended amounts of needed nutrients as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). A large variety of food is available to people but individuals are not choosing the proportion of food needed to reach all of the recommendations for a healthy diet. So what gaps exist in the American diet? Many gaps are identified through the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.

Americans need to focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods which provide the nutrition we need, yet balance the calories we consume. Nutrient-dense foods provide the vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients our bodies require while being lower in calories. Foods that include solid fats, sugars, high amounts of sodium and refined starches should be reduced or avoided. These types of foods add extra calories and can often lead to other health problems.

Some examples of nutrient-dense foods include whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milks and dairy products, seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, nuts and seeds. It is just as important when you are preparing any of these nutrient-dense foods to be careful not to add sugar, fats or salt to them, thus increasing the calories and sodium levels unnecessarily.

Beans and peas are a good choice for a nutrient-dense food. Many kinds of beans and peas exist including kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, lima beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, split peas and lentils. Beans and peas provide us with nutrients such as iron, zinc, potassium and folate. They are an excellent source of fiber and can be considered a protein source because of the nutrients they bring to our diet. Green beans and green peas are not a part of this group because the nutrient content is different. Green beans and green peas are considered a part of the more starchy vegetables.

When you are looking to reduce your calories and improve your health at the same time, consider food choices that can give you the nutrients you need without the extra calories. For more information, see theAmerican Dietary Guidelines website.

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