Nutrient-Rich Foods

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Healthy foods

Americans are overfed but undernourished. The fact that two-thirds of Americans are classified as overweight or obese is a major health concern. Many Americans do not get their daily requirements of B vitamins; Vitamins A, C, E; calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron, which come from eating nutrient-dense foods such as colorful fruits and vegetables; whole, fortified, fiber-rich grains; fat-free/low-fat dairy products; lean meats, such as poultry and fish; and eggs, beans and nuts. These foods offer the highest amounts of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients with the fewest calories. Nutrient-rich foods are the foundation to a healthy diet.


Fruits provide potassium, folate, vitamin C and fiber. Fill your grocery cart with brightly colored fruits that are fresh, canned or dried. Only buy canned fruits without added sugar, and only buy 100 percent fruit juices. To save money, buy fresh fruit when it is in season and is less expensive.

Fruit Tips
  • Select easy-to-eat fresh fruits such as apples, bananas, berries, cherries, oranges, plums, pears and peaches.
  • Choose precut packages of melon, pineapple and fruit salad.
  • Buy frozen berries, peaches, and mangoes for fruit smoothies.
  • Buy dried fruits for a quick snack

Fruit Comparisons
  • A medium apple = a baseball
  • 1/2 cup raisins = a medium egg
  • 1 cup fruit juice = one 8-ounce carton of milk

Vegetables provide potassium, folate, vitamins A, C and E; and fiber. Shop for vegetables that are fresh, frozen or canned, and try to prepare them without added fat.

Types of Vegetables
  • Green and leafy vegetables: asparagus, brocoli, spinach and romaine lettuce
  • Orange vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin
  • Dried beans and peas: lentils, kidney and garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • Other: artichoke, eggplant and parsnip
Fresh vegetables Veggie Tips
  • Buy prewashed bags of salad greens and spinach.
  • Choose no-chop veggies like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and celery.
  • Buy frozen vegetables. They go from microwave to table in minutes.
  • Stock canned beans for quick use in soups and salads.

Pasta and rice Grains provide B vitamins, minerals and fiber. Examples of grains include wheat, white rice, tortillas, oats, breakfast cereals, cornmeal, grits, bread and pasta. Whole grains include brown rice, bulgar, barley, whole wheat, oatmeal, whole oats, whole rye, wild rice and whole-grain corn.

Grain Comparisons
  • 1/2 cup cooked cereal, pasta or rice = a computer mouse
  • 1 pancake or waffle = a music CD
  • 1 cup dry cereal = a baseball

Whole-grain Tips
  • Buy quick-cooking oatmeal, barley and brown rice.
  • Use rye or wheat bread for sandwiches.
  • Use whole-wheat pastas in your favorite recipes.
  • Snack on whole-grain crackers or "light" microwave popcorn.
  • Choose low-calorie grains.
  • Opt for breads made with little or no fat.
  • Eat baked tortilla chips and crackers.
  • Prepare pasta salads with whole-wheat pasta.

Milk Group
Glass of milk Milk provides calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein. Foods in this group include milk, yogurt and cheese and milk-based desserts such as ice cream and pudding. Remember to use milk-based products sparingly, and try to consume low-fat or fat-free varieties of these foods whenever possible.

Calcium-Rich Tips
  • Serve milk at meals and with snacks.
  • Top pizza, casseroles and veggies with low-fat shredded cheese.
  • Use plain yogurt as a base for dips.
  • Order lattes with low-fat or fat-free milk.
  • Make oatmeal or soups with milk instead of water.
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Gradually go from whole milk to 2% to skim.
  • Enjoy "light" ice cream or frozen yogurts.

Milk Comparisons
  • 1 cup milk = an 8-ounce carton of milk
  • 1 cup yogurt = an 8-ounce container of yogurt
  • 1-ounce of cheese = three one-inch cubes

Meats and Beans
Meats and beans provide protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. This group includes beef, pork, poultry, fish, beans and nuts.

Lean-Protein Tips
  • Choose lean meats and cuts such as "loin" and "round."
  • Lean pork includes pork loin, tenderloin, center loin and lean ham.
  • Choose poultry without skin or visible fat.
  • Vary your choices with fish, beans, eggs, seeds and nuts.
  • Select fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as trout, herring and salmon.
  • Pick up recipe-ready meats such as lean beef strips and cubes.
  • Buy fish fillets or boneless, skinless chicken.
  • Stock up on canned beans for soups, salads and chili.
  • For quick snacks, keep nuts and seeds in 1-ounce serving-size bags.
  • Trim visible fat and skin on poultry.
  • Bake, broil or grill meats.
  • Bake breaded meats instead of frying.
  • Use an herb-based seasoning to flavor meats.
  • Drain fat that appears during cooking.

Salmon Meats and Beans Comparisons
  • 3-ounces cooked meat, fish or poultry = a deck of cards
  • 1/2 cup of beans = a computer mouse