Dietary Guidelines Explained: Consume nutrient-dense foods

"Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups."

To follow this guideline you need to know what a “nutrient-dense” food is. A nutrient-dense food is one that supplies a significant amount of nutrients (carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water) for the number of calories consumed. For example, an apple is nutrient-dense because you get carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water for less than 100 calories. A can of Coke, on the other hand, is not; you consume only added sugar, caffeine, preservatives and water for 160 calories.

When you’re trying to figure out the nutrient density of a food, a good rule-of-thumb is to ask yourself how processed a food is. In general, the more “whole” a food is, or the closer it is to its “natural” form, the more nutrient-dense it will be. For example, a potato is more nutrient-dense than a bag of potato chips.

If you follow this guideline and opt for nutrient-dense foods you’ll find that you feel fuller for less calories. This helps with weight control. Follow these quick tips for choosing nutrient-dense foods:

  • Limit packaged foods
  • Choose less processed foods, e.g. choose wholegrain bread instead of white bread, or bean soup instead of a fast-food burrito
  • Choose orange juice with pulp instead of orange punch
  • Choose unfiltered apple juice instead of apple drink
  • Avoid soda or beverages such as Kool-Aid
  • Read the ingredient list on packaged foods. Look for natural ingredients and avoid foods where fat or added sugar is one of the first three ingredients.