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8 ways to make more nutrient dense food choices

scale with fast food on one side and fruits and veggies on the other
8 ways to make more nutrient dense food choices


Research suggests that the standard American diet is energy rich but nutrient poor.

When it comes to food, energy means calories. You may have heard the term "empty calories", which means a food provides calories but very few nutrients. Nutrient dense foods are rich in various nutrients but relatively low in calories.

What are nutrients?

There are six essential nutrients our bodies need: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water.

These nutrients fall into two different categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. Protein, carbohydrate and fat are macronutrients. Our bodies require macronutrients in large amounts and they provide our bodies with energy.

Micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, are compounds our bodies need in smaller amounts for normal physiological function. Vitamins are necessary for energy production, immune function, blood clotting and other functions. Meanwhile, minerals play an important role in growth, bone health, fluid balance and several other processes.

Nutrient dense foods

Nutrient dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats. Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meat, beans, nuts and seeds are all great examples of nutrient dense foods. By choosing more nutrient-dense foods, you’ll get the beneficial nutrients your body needs without consuming too many calories.

To get more nutritional value from your food, try these suggestions:

Instead of

Replace with

White rice

Brown rice
Sugary cereal Oatmeal with fruit or whole wheat cereal
Sour cream/cream cheese Greek yogurt
Sweet desserts ( candy, cookies, cake, brownies, etc.) Bowl of fruit
Doughnuts/pastries Whole grain bagel or whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter or homemade jam
Chips, pretzels Crunchy vegetables or nuts

Hummus or avocado spreads

Sugary beverages

Plain water or water infused with cucumber, lemon, strawberry (whatever fruit/vegetable you like)

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