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4 foods you should eat every day

Posted on Mar 12, 2014 ( comments)
colorful vegetables
It’s a simple truth: if you eat a nutritious, balanced diet that incorporates the right combination of foods every day, you will be a healthier person. A balanced diet can even help reduce or eliminate your chances of developing chronic illnesses, like heart disease and diabetes.

To get the most out of your meals, make sure you eat foods from each of these four groups every day:

1. Low-fat dairy
The calcium and vitamin D that you get from dairy products are critical nutrients, but ones a lot of us don’t get enough of. Many women, especially, are deficient in calcium, which is important for healthy teeth and bones. And a lack of vitamin D, also needed for bone health, is common in low-sun climates like the Pacific Northwest.

“Some people avoid dairy because of the perceived calories,” says Chelsea Lindhal, RD, CD, a wellness dietitian with MultiCare’s Center for Healthy Living. “But there are some studies showing that people who have three servings of low-fat dairy a day have smaller waistlines than those who don’t.”

The key to keeping your dairy calorie count down is to choose low- or nonfat options whenever possible. Good low-fat dairy options include fat-free or 1 percent milk, low-fat yogurt, part-skim cheese, and low-fat cottage cheese.

2. Whole grains
Whole grains are champions when it comes to adding fiber to your diet. They provide other nutrients you need, like calcium and iron, and are naturally low in fat. Whole grains also help keep you feeling full longer.

If you’re like a lot of Americans, you probably eat a lot of grains already. But if most of that comes from refined grains—like white fl our or rice; many cereals; and most processed baked goods, such as store-bought cookies—rather than whole grains, you’re missing out on many of the health benefits of eating grains in the first place.

Like “low-fat,” “whole-grain” has become a buzzword for food packagers and marketers. But be careful. Just because a food includes whole grain as an ingredient does not make it a whole-grain food. How do you know the difference? Read the label.

“That first word in the ingredient list needs to be ‘whole grain,’” says Lindhal. “Even if it’s listed second, that might mean the item only includes 1 percent whole grain.”

Try to get at least half of your grains from whole grains. Some whole-grain options include popcorn, 100 percent whole-wheat bread, quinoa, steel cut or rolled oats, brown rice, buckwheat flour, Cheerios-brand cereal.

3. Lean proteins
Protein is important to help you build and repair muscle, feel full and satisfied longer, and keep your blood sugar even. A diet that is too carb-heavy tends to cause your blood sugar to spike, causing ups and downs in your energy level.

A lot of people don’t realize that you don’t need much protein to get daily benefits from it. About 6 ounces total each day is sufficient for most people who are also consuming enough low-fat dairy.

“A little protein goes a long way if you've got a balanced diet,” says Lindhal. “The majority of people are consuming way more protein than they need.”

Lean protein means more than just red meat. Some good choices include boneless, skinless chicken breasts; beans; nuts and seeds; and tofu or other vegetarian meat substitutes.

4. Lots of colorful produce
Loaded with nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants, fruits and vegetables are powerhouses of nutrition.

“Fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods per calorie,” says Lindhal.

They also contain healthy fiber, are almost universally low in calories, and are often portable, making them great on-the-go snack food choices. To get the most benefit from your produce consumption, though, you want to vary the kinds—and the colors—you eat.

“A wide spectrum of color equals a wide spectrum of nutrients,” says Lindhal. So instead of eating the same apple with lunch and salad with dinner, try mixing it up with different colored fruits and vegetables throughout the week.

Looking for a little help to get a jumpstart on healthier eating? MultiCare's Center for Healthy Living can help. Read more about their Wellness & Weight Management Nutrition Services.

Posted in: Healthy Living

About The Author

maura hallam Maura Hallam
Maura is our senior content editor. She writes extensively about health and wellness topics, from fitness and nutrition to medical insurance. You can reach her at maura.hallam@multicare.org.

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