What is a nutrient-dense food?

A nutrient-dense food is one that provides vitamins, mineral and other substances that have health benefits, with relatively few calories. Nutrient-dense foods have little or no added sugars and fats. Nutrient-dense foods also minimize or exclude added salt or other ingredients high in sodium. Ideally, they're in forms that retain naturally occurring components such as dietary fiber.

Nutrient-dense foods include all vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry — when prepared with little or no added solid fats, sugars, refined starches, and sodium.

Where do I need to cut back?

Most U.S. adults and children eat too much sodium and too many calories from saturated fat and added sugars. Even if you aren't overweight or obese, consuming too much sodium, saturated fat and added sugars increases your risk of heart disease and other health problems.

A healthy eating pattern limits saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars and sodium. Staying below the specified limits for these components can help you achieve a healthy eating pattern that stays within your calorie limit:

  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories a day from added sugars.
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories a day from saturated fats.
  • Consume less than 2,300 mg a day of sodium.
  • If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed only by adults of legal drinking age and in moderation — up to 1 drink a day for women and up to 2 drinks a day for men.

Using the dietary guidelines as your map, you can make healthy choices that meet your nutritional needs, protect your health, and help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Aug. 23, 2016 See more In-depth