We talk about nutrient dense foods a lot, but you might be wondering what are nutrient dense foods and how do I get them into my diet? Well, in that case, this post is for you!
Nutrient dense foods are basically foods that pack a lot of vitamins, nutrients and other nutrients for their calories – the more nutrients per calorie, the more nutrient dense a food is. So, for instance, dark green leafy vegetables are extremely nutrient dense – they are low in calories but extremely high in nutrients. These are the types of foods that you want to be getting a lot of in your diet!
Unfortunately, many modern diets are calorie rich and nutrient poor. Fast foods are a prime example of this – many fast foods contain a LOT of calories but aren’t all that great in terms of nutrient content. This goes for vegan junk food as well as non-vegan (although vegan food is, obviously, superior :p).
So, how do you get more nutrient dense foods into your diet? If you are used to eating a lot of junk food or the “standard” meat and two veg type meals, this might require a bit of an adjustment for you. Don’t worry, we are here to help you through it!
Take a balanced approach
There is a lot of misleading information out there that will try to have you focusing on one “super” vitamin or mineral as the key to health. This is often done by places wanting you to buy expensive supplements and quick fixes. Instead, we suggest that you should take a balanced approach to your diet and try to get a good spread of macro and micro nutrients. For micro nutrients, a good way to do this is to eat the rainbow – basically eat a lot of fruits and veg of different colours. The more colours you can get in, the better! You should be looking to eat 10 portions of fruit and veg per day, and try to get in some dark green leafy veg, some berries and then as many other colours of fruit and veg as you like!
Make small changes
Going vegan is a huge step, so you might not feel like immediately making the jump to an entirely whole food plant- based diet – I know we certainly didn’t do it all at once! Unless you want to, you don’t need to completely overhaul your entire diet. Making the following changes will increase the nutrient density of your meals:
· Swap white rice for brown, red, black or wild rice
· Swap white pasta for whole wheat pasta
· Swap white bread for whole wheat bread (are you sensing a theme here?)
· Instead of vegan mayo or sour cream, make quick and easy tofu-based sauces
· Snack on crunchy veg such as celery, carrot sticks and cucumber rather than crisps
· Choose fruit rather than sweets when you fancy a sweet treat
How to prepare your food
Whole grains, beans and legumes and vegetables are all nutrient dense, but it matters how you prepare them. If you cook them in a lot of oil then you will be adding a lot of empty calories, and making the actual meal you consume less nutrient dense. In order to preserve the nutrient density of these foods, prepare them without adding oils, sugar or salt. Your taste buds will quickly adjust!