Adding Nutrient-Richness into Meals
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will issue recommendations for new healthful eating guidelines later this year. One recommendation that is sure to stay the same is to choose an overall healthful diet by eating more foods rich in nutrients—such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood—and eating fewer foods low in nutrients and sources of “empty calories.”
Specifically, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recognize the important role of dairy foods—milk, cheese and yogurt—in a healthful diet. That’s because they have high amounts of nutrients, like calcium, vitamin D and potassium, and play a role in promoting health, including bone health and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.1 What’s more, emerging research on dairy foods continues to support their positive association with metabolic health, including results from a recently published study by researchers at Cambridge University which shows that saturated fat in cheese, yogurt and other dairy foods may help reduce insulin resistance and protect against type 2 diabetes.2
So why wait? Making a few simple changes to your shopping and eating habits today can go a long way to improving the healthfulness of your diet for a lifetime. Below are some simple tips you can use at the supermarket and in your kitchen to help you get started.
At the supermarket
- Reading and understanding food labels can help you make healthier food choices, especially when choosing foods that are more highly processed.
- Calories: Pay attention to the calories per serving as well as how many servings you’re really consuming if you eat the contents of the whole package.
Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants. Make lower sodium food choices by following the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Aim for a daily sodium intake of less than 2,300 mg—equal to about 1 teaspoon of table salt—or about 750 mg of sodium per meal. For persons who are 51 years or older, African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, aim for less than 1,500 mg sodium per day—or about 500 mg of sodium per meal. Also consider cooking more foods at home; it allows for better management of the amount of sodium you eat.
It’s not easy to tell by reading the Nutrition Facts panel if a food contains added sugars, because the line for “sugars” currently includes both added and natural sugars. Naturally-occurring sugars are found in foods like milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose). Any product that contains milk (such as yogurt, milk or cream) or fruit (fresh, dried) contains some natural sugars. If you see the terms “sugar” or “syrup”, words that end in “-ose”, or honey, molasses, or nectar in the ingredient statement, these indicate the product contains added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars in your diet to approximately 100 calories per day for women and 150 calories per day for men—or about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men.3
The primary source for artificial trans fats in processed food is “partially hydrogenated oils." When the Nutrition Facts label says a food contains “0g” of trans fat, but includes “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list, it means the food contains trans fat. So be on the lookout for this on package ingredient lists. Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. 4
In the kitchen
Focus on making small swaps at mealtimes, one dish at a time, to provide a nutrient boost and keep deliciousness in your diet. For example:
- At breakfast, instead of oatmeal topped with brown sugar, try making savory-style oatmeal by adding Sargento® Shredded Swiss Cheese, minced fresh chives or rosemary, and pinch of salt and pepper. You’ll be replacing added sugar with a boost of calcium and flavor.
- At lunch, instead of a takeout salad and frozen yogurt, try substituting frozen yogurt for a serving of plain 0% fat Greek yogurt generously topped with fresh fruit. You’ll swap out added sugar while punching up protein and fiber.
- At dinner, instead of a big portion of regular spaghetti with marinara sauce, choose a smaller portion of spaghetti with marinara sauce; make it whole grain; then go big on nutritious toppings, like roasted vegetables and chicken along with a sprinkling of Sargento® Shredded Mozzarella - Traditional Cut and fresh basil. It’ll provide more variety of nutrients, textures, and tastes.
For recipes, be sure to visit: Our Recipes.
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 - Health.gov
Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 2014; 2: 810–818.