Nutrition-wise blog

Focus less on numbers, instead go for healthy choices

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. January 12, 2016

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines are a call to action to move away from rigid, complicated dietary recommendations (what we call "eating by the numbers") toward a healthier eating pattern.

Reshaping what you eat starts with a simple premise: Plant foods should make up the majority of your meals — and thus your grocery list. The new recommendations call for eating more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy and legumes, along with small amounts of fish and seafood, poultry, lean meat, healthy oils and nuts. At the same time, the guidelines urge restraint when it comes to highly processed foods that contain added sugars, salt and saturated fat.

For some, reshaping what you eat may require a few more specifics. Are your current meals mainly meat and processed starches? If so, try these alternatives:

  • Instead of breakfasting on a couple of eggs and bacon, have one soft-cooked egg cracked over spicy black beans. Add sliced fruit on the side.
  • Instead of refined or processed sugary cereal and whole milk in the morning, soak oats in low-fat milk or yogurt (1 part oats to half part milk or yogurt) overnight and top with fruit. Eat hot or cold.
  • Instead of a lunch of white-bread ham sandwich, chips and a soda, have vegetable soup and whole-grain crackers, a piece of fruit and sparkling water.
  • Grabbing a take-home meal? Bypass the pepperoni pizza and instead go to the grocery store salad bar and top salad greens with lentils, kidney beans and tofu — and other delicious fresh veggies and fruit. Dress the salad at home with olive oil and rice wine or balsamic vinegar.
  • Craving a fish fry? It's fine to fry fish in canola oil occasionally, but instead of a potato on the side have brown or wild rice mixed with freshly chopped carrots, celery and parsley.
  • Hungry for a dessert or snack? Think fruit and nut combinations. Banana with freshly chopped peanuts. Trail mix with dried cranberries. How about fresh berries mixed into plain low-fat yogurt and lightly frozen?

Need more ideas for ways to add more plants to your diet? Check out the recipes on our website. The recipes are searchable by main ingredient (vegetable, fruit, whole grain).

Don't think of these changes as deprivations. Think of them as adjustments to a new pattern — one that you'll be able to follow over the long-term for better health.

Originally published June 24, 2015

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Jan. 12, 2016