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Choose to eat more NUTRIENT DENSE FOODS

Nutrient dense foods are foods that have a high amount of nutrients and typically low calories. In addition these foods offer the most benefits (and nutrients) compared to other more processed versions. A great example of this is white versus whole grain bread… white bread is made from wheat that has been stripped of most of its whole elements and nutrients to make it more shelf stable and palatable to the masses; while whole grain bread is made from wheat that retains most of its nutritional value. Processed foods may be less expensive and go bad less quickly but don’t have much value in terms of nutrition when compared to nutrient dense foods that are packed with more vitamins, minerals and nutrients. In the case of white and whole grain bread; whole grain has nutrients like selenium (an anti-oxidant), manganese (helps heal wounds) and dietary fiber (helps with gastro intestinal function).

Eating more nutrient dense foods will also help you cut down on excess calories and fill you up for longer. This is can be helpful when trying to lose weight or simply to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The diagram below shows how different foods with the same amount of calories look in your stomach. Most of us tend to eat the same amount of food on a daily basis. So swapping your chicken nuggets and fries (low nutrient density & high calories) for more vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes (high nutrient density & low calories) will trigger the stretch receptors in your stomach and send signals to your brain to tell you to stop eating, thus eating less.

There are many foods that we still choose to eat today because they are easy or because “it’s what we ate as kids” but we can choose to become more conscious about our dietary intake and get the most out of our nutrition. Try some of these food swaps that cut down on calories (but not flavor) and boost nutrients:

Sugary breakfast cereals  < – > Oatmeal or fresh fruit with yogurt

Candy  < – > Fresh or dried fruit, honey on whole wheat toast, grapes or blueberries

White Rice  < – > Brown rice or wild grain rice, quinoa or other whole grains

Chips, pastries, salty treats  < – > Almonds, fresh or dried fruit, carrot sticks, or dill pickles.

Try cutting up whole grain pitas, drizzle with olive oil, and bake (great alternative to fried chips)

Margarine and processed oils  < – > Coconut oil and cold pressed olive oil, delicious and naturally sourced. Even butter is better (high in fat but natural and less harsh on your system)

Mayonnaise < – > Hummus, pesto, or avocado on your sandwich = more flavor and nutrients

You can even try using the nutrient dense food pyramid, basically the Canada Food Guide pyramid flipped on its head. Limiting sugars, red meats and processed foods, and choosing to eat mostly vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes instead. Ironically, Health Canada is now in the process of reviewing our current Food Guide and is planning on releasing a new guide that focuses on less processed foods and more plant based unprocessed foods.