According to Monday’s announcement of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, proper balance is the key to a healthy diet. The Guidelines point out that many Americans consume less than optimal intake of certain nutrients even though they have adequate resources for a healthy diet. The Guidelines also recommend that Americans focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages.
Though the concept of “nutrient density” is either new or misunderstood by many consumers, it’s basically a term that speaks to the amount of good, solid nutrition you can pack into a food for the fewest calories possible. And eating highly nutritious, lower calorie foods (i.e., nutrient dense foods) can have obvious implications for promoting weight control and good health. A “poster child” for nutrient density is the egg. Try to think of a natural food product besides the egg that packs so much nutrition- -13 vitamins and minerals and 7 gms of high quality protein, into a 70 calorie package. I’ll bet you can’t do it. So it’s no accident that the recent Guidelines call out eggs in a number of instances as an example of a good nutrient dense food. Coupled with the fact that an egg costs only about $0.15 per serving, it’s understandable to think why the egg should be considered one of our most “efficient” foods (efficient calorically/nutritionally; efficient economically!).
So how can you bring a little more nutrient density into you own diet? An easy fix is to substitute an egg in the morning (70 kcals) for (the admittedly more convenient) Pop Tart (210 kcals; 8 gms fat; 13 gms sugar). Another would be to replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats (e.g.-certain cuts of meat) with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories (e.g.-fish, chicken, eggs).
Obviously there is a bit of individuality in how we can bring a little more “nutrient density” into our lives. However you choose to do it, focus on foods that will give you the most “bang-for-your buck” nutritionally; foods low in calories that are highly nutritious. They do exist. You just may have to search a bit!