Close your eyes and picture your favorite meal or snack. Picture someone offering to make it for you and how happy that makes you feel. Now, picture yourself enjoying it. Chances are, there’s at least one component that is better for you, like a seasonal fruit or vegetable. And chances are, there’s also one component that’s a little decadent. That’s a great canvas for balanced eating over time, something that the Together Counts™ program for healthy, active living encourages daily.
Here are some easy tips inspired by each food group to help make your taste buds happy while caring for your health.
- Fruit-full. Is there anything more delicious than biting into a sweet strawberry in spring? Or a peach that is so juicy in summertime that you need a napkin to help you clean up after every flavorful bite? And yet, you probably don’t say when enjoying a ripe piece of fruit, “wow, this nutrition tastes so good!” It’s more like, “wow, this tastes delicious!” This a great example of how eating something that tastes good is good for you, too. Choose fruits in season and learn how to select and store them properly. Then simply wash, eat, and enjoy.
- Vegetable. Ever notice that a veggie platter at a party is usually one of the first things to be gobbled up? Sometimes, we just want to crunch while, at a party, watching the game, snacking with friends, or even while sitting at our desks. Veggies that are washed and arranged on a tray seem like such a bright and sunny treat. And veggies weigh in at around 25 calories per serving.
- Whole grain. While many grain foods (bread, cereal, pasta, etc.) may look similar, looks can be deceiving. With grains, it’s what’s inside that counts. Read labels, choose wisely, and enjoy your favorite grain dishes knowing you’ve made those choices count in terms of nutrition, without necessarily adding more volume.
- Dairy. Broccoli with cheese. Fresh fruit with yogurt. Soup made with 1 percent milk. The possibilities of pairings with dairy and other food groups or ingredients is almost endless. This versatile food group is great on its own or as part of a meal or snack, and provides loads of nutrition. Grab a cheese stick and apple for a snack out the door, or find a favorite recipe that includes multiple food groups for convenient meals on busy nights.
- Protein. Protein is found in so many foods, regardless of what we feel like eating, we can find something to fulfill our nutritional needs and taste desires. From a bean and cheese quesadilla to a roast in the oven, what you make can easily fit into your schedule, budget, and cooking skills.
What’s on your plate tonight?
Kim Kirchherr, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE, FAND is an award winning registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She is Vice President, National Dairy Council and IGA Health & Wellness Advisor. Kim has experience in agriculture, supermarket, media (traditional and social), hospital-based health and fitness centers, and outpatient MNT programs. Kim currently serves as the Chair-Elect of the Food & Culinary Professionals Dietetic Practice Group (FCP DPG) and has served as chair of both the FCP Agriculture and Supermarket Subgroups. She is past president of Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.linkedin.com/in/kimkirchherr. For more inspiring, timely tips and recipes, visit IGABetterChoices.com.
For more healthy dining options check out these other articles from Together Counts!