Are Your Meals Nutritional Powerhouses?

Posted on Saturday, June 14th, 2008
Written by: Angela, Nutritionist

Fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods should top your list when trying to make healthy food choices.  Nutritionally packed foods, however, don’t always deliver the nutrition we think we’re getting.  By making a few changes to our already good choices, we can maximize our nutritional intake. Food combinations, age and illness can affect the amount of absorption we actually get when eating.  It is impossible to know how many nutrients we actually get from the foods we eat. But, by combining the right foods, in the right way, we can achieve what is known as a ‘nutritional powerhouse.’  Making subtle yet dynamic changes to your already healthy choices will result in nutritional powerhouses packed with nutrients that the body will absorb and refuel from.

The “Not So Extreme” Food Make-Over:

1) Raisin bran cereal, chosen for its fiber and folic acid, with reduced-fat milk for calcium, is a healthy food choice.  However, the fiber can interfere with calcium and nutrient absorption by pushing it through the digestive track too quickly. 

Make-Over – Add a whole orange to your meal.  The acid content may improve the ability to absorb the calcium.  Also, add an extra dairy serving mid day.  For Vegetarians, supplements are recommended because the vegetarian diet is high in compounds called phytates and oxalates, which bind with the calcium, preventing the absorption of the nutrients.       Make-Over – Switch up the tomato slices with sundried tomatoes or salsa to increase lycopene content. The more processing a tomato goes through, the more available its carotenoids are.  Choose a darker leaf lettuce to add more nutrients. Swap caramelized onions for the mayo, which will also decrease the amount of nitrates absorption from the cold cuts. Exchange the roll for some whole grain bread, which has four times the fiber and more antioxidants.  Avoid highly processed deli meats and choose regular roasted turkey, to avoid the added chemicals in processing.

2) Turkey salami, lettuce, tomato and cheese on a roll with reduced fat mayo.  This meal choice is leaner than its full fat counterpart, which includes regular salami and mayo. You will also ingest lycopene from the tomato and fiber in the lettuce.  However, it’s still just a meat and cheese sandwich.

3)  Pan fried tofu with brown rice, chickpeas and red-pepper strips.  This is a good meal because of the lean soy protein, proven to help prevent heart disease, and the brown rice has cancer-fighting nutrients. The not so good…there is less protein absorption in vegetables, and the dish is unappetizing.

Make-Over – Include lean protein as found in lean chicken, beef or shrimp. Only 70 percent of the protein in plant derivatives gets absorbed as compared to 90 percent of the animal proteins. Spice it up with a variety of veggies, herbs and spices, which add antioxidants and improves taste.

Categories: Balancing Meals

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