Learn to balance your food budget with nutrient-rich foods.
Nutrient-rich foods
Credit: Randy Mayor

Focusing solely on fat and calories has gotten us nowhere in terms of improving nutritional status in the U.S., and so we find ourselves at a crossroad for how to think about healthy eating. For decades, nutrition advice has focused on the foods people should not eat, but this approach does not seem to be working. Americans are not only overweight but also undernourished in key nutrients like calcium, fiber, Vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium. It appears that we are consuming more calories than we need, but not enough nutrient-rich foods to help us achieve better health.

Cutting calories is common nutrition advice, but that advice also needs to include tips on getting the most nutrients from those calories. The calories you choose give you the nutrients you need. But remember, you don't eat nutrients, you eat food. To eat the nutrient-rich way, consider all of the nutrients and minerals in a food or beverage. Look at how many beneficial nutrients it contains, such as vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber.

The nutrient-rich foods approach is a positive, realistic way to think about eating: it shifts the focus from foods to avoid to foods you can enjoy. These foods are familiar and easy to find so that healthy eating isn't difficult or stressful. Plus, these are foods that can both nourish your body and give you pleasure.

The following food groups are sources of nutrients that many people are missing (or not getting enough from in their diet) including calcium, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and E. Bite for bite, these nutrient-rich foods have the most nutritional bang for your buck.