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Eating a variety of foods from the various food groups and subgroups—within an appropriate calorie level—is important to maintain overall wellness at each stage of life. Each of the food groups and their subgroups provides an array of nutrients for your body. The amount of food you consume, along with your daily pattern of eating and exercise play a key role in achieving an overall healthy lifestyle.
A healthy diet includes a variety of foods high in protein whether you chose animal sources like poultry, seafood, and eggs—or plant-based sources. Try to choose more plant-based options such as beans, peas, lentils, soy, peanuts/peanut butter, and seeds. Make it your goal to eat a source of protein with each meal (US Dietary Guidelines)
Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to help you personalize your plate and to learn more about the proper portion sizes for protein consumption.
Incorporate whole grains into your daily diet and limit the intake of refined grains. Choose 100% whole-grain foods for at least half of all grains consumed.
Examples of whole grains include barley (not pearled), black rice, brown rice, bulgur (cracked wheat), corn, millet, oats, popcorn, quinoa, dark rye, red rice, sorghum, teff, wheat, and wild rice.
Look for whole grains and pseudo cereals in the ingredient list on food packaging such in bars, breads, cereals, chapati, chips, cornmeal, crackers, cookies, flour, muffins, pancakes, side dish mixes, tortilla chips, tortillas and other baked goods.
Fill half your plate with whole fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are high sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals and water. They are filling and are very low in calories. Aim for 3-4 servings of fruits, and 3-4 servings of vegetables a day either fresh, cooked, raw, frozen, canned, or dried, including 100% vegetable or fruit juices.
Did you know frozen fruits, vegetable and pulps are as nutritious as the fresh fruits and vegetables? Most frozen foods are generally picked at the peak of freshness and are sold already washed, peeled, seeded, sliced or chopped. This makes for an affordable and convenient option!
Oils are an important part of a healthy diet and provide essential fatty acids that your body needs.
Olive Oil provide essential nutrients, monounsaturated fats and beneficial plant compounds.
It has more vitamin K, calcium, iron, and potassium than some other plant oils.
It is high in unsaturated fats that can help reduce the risk of heart disease; helping to lower low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol levels (LDLs), more commonly referred to “bad cholesterol”, and improving high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol levels (HDLs), more commonly referred “good cholesterol”.
Olive oil also contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Replacing butter, shortening, and other oils that are high in saturated fats (i.e. palm, coconut, and palm-kernel oil) with olive oil while cooking is a good way to incorporate healthy fats in the diet.
Olive oil can also be used in marinades, as a salad dressing, and to enhance the flavor of foods.
Consider using extra virgin olive oil too! It is extracted using only pressure, known as cold pressing. It is considered the finest, freshest, and most flavorful of olive oils. The delicate nutrition found in cold pressed oil is compromised by heat, so it’s best served cold or at room temperature. It’s good for salads, smoothies, dips, and instead of butter drizzled on toast, vegetables, cassava, potatoes, etc. before serving.
Starchy vegetables include breadfruit, burdock root, cassava, corn, jicama, lotus root, lima beans, plantains, white potatoes, salsify, taro root (dasheen or yautia), water chestnuts, yam, and yuca. These are all nutrient-dense, just as the non-starchy vegetables are.
Potassium is a mineral and an electrolyte found in foods and beverages that help keep your muscles working, including the muscles that control your heartbeat and breathing. Rich sources of potassium include fruits, vegetables and dry beans!
Fruits: avocado, banana, guava, kiwi, mamey, nance (yellow cherries), papaya, passion fruit, plantains, soursop, and dried fruits.
Vegetables: artichokes, batata, beans, cassava/yuca, lentils, lima beans, tomatoes, pumpkin, potatoes, and spinach.
Dry beans (per ¼ cup):
Bola Roja 768mg Potassium
Cannellini Beans 754mg Potassium
Large Lima Beans759mg Potassium
Red Cargamanto Beans 720 mg Potassium
Small White Beans 694mg Potassium and
White Caragamanto Beans 675mg Potassium
TIP: If you exercise daily you must replace the potassium that is lost while sweating. Potassium is important for hydration, muscle contraction, helps control heart rate and helps maintain healthy blood pressure. Not getting enough potassium can lead to muscle cramps, aches, abnormal heart rhythms, and more.
Vitamin C is important for growth and repair of all body tissues. It helps heal wounds, and keeps teeth and gums healthy. It is an antioxidant, helps prevent infection, and assists with iron absorption. Food sources with Vitamin C include guava, papaya, pineapple, oranges, grapefruits, nance (yellow cherries), broccoli, dark-green leafy vegetables, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwi, melon, and bell peppers.
TIP: Vitamin c boosts iron absorption. Iron from meat is better absorbed than iron from plants. For better absorption of plant-based iron, you can pair it with a vitamin C food source.
OMEGA3’s are key nutrients needed for rapid brain development. They also help decrease the risk for stroke and heart disease by raising HDL (good cholesterol) levels while lowering blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Additionally, omega-3s play a role in regulating inflammation, genetic function, and blood clotting.
Three main omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapantaenoic acid (EHA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
- Sources of ALA include ground flaxseed and flax oil, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds, nuts, and canola oil.
- Rich sources of EHA and DHA are salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, trout, and anchovies.
At least 2 servings of fish per week is recommended. Incorporate a variety from the food list above into your daily diet.
Choose water, sparkling water, and no-sugar added or low sugar beverages. Major sources of added sugar and calories in the American diet are in beverages such as soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juice cocktail drinks. Drinking water helps cut calories. You can also drink sparkling water, unsweetened tea, or other unsweetened beverages instead of sugary beverages.
To help you reduce sugary drink consumption, do it slowly to help stick with it. If you have sugary drinks like sodas and sweetened teas on a regular basis, cutting back slowly may help you stick with choosing healthier options. Some people mix half sweetened and half unsweetened while getting used to less sugar, and gradually reduce the sweetness.
Look for low sugar coconut water instead of sugary soda or juice cocktails. Often no-sugar added coconut water and coconut water sweetened with fruit pulp can have less sugar than soda and may have more nutrition.
According to US Dietary Guidelines, a healthy diet limits added sugars to less than 10% of calories per day. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include sugars found naturally in milk and fruits. Choose food with the lowest grams of sugar. Calories from sugar and fats add up quickly. According to the American Heart Association, 1 gram of sugar is four calories, so if a product has 15 grams of sugar per serving, that’s 60 calories just from the sugar alone, not counting the other ingredients. Avoid added sugars for children under age 2.
Sodium is an essential nutrient for your body, however, it is important to avoid consuming too much of it. The 2020-2025 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans, American Heart Association and other health organizations recommend 2,300 mg of sodium or less each day for adults. Low sodium products (140mg sodium or less per serving) can make it easier to build a healthier recipe or meal while helping to avoid excess levels throughout the day. Low sodium products can have safer levels of sodium for children and help children avoid getting too much throughout the day.
According to US Dietary Guidelines, intake of saturated fats should be limited to less than 10% of your daily calories. Saturated fat is commonly found in high-fat meat, full-fat dairy products (e.g., whole milk, ice cream, cheese), butter, coconut oil, palm kernel and palm oil. Lower your saturated fat intake by reducing your consumption of high-fat meats, desserts and sweet snacks. Control your portion sizes, and limit how often you eat these types of foods.
Dr. Samara Sterling
Nutrition Scientist/Research Director
The Peanut Institute
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