Eating Food, Not Nutrients


Eating Food, Not Nutrients

When it comes to nutrition, 95% of the news is focused on fats, sugars, or specific nutrients. What research supports, though, is a need to refocus our attention on the pattern of food intake, over a week for example, rather than on specific foods or nutrients that are supposedly good or bad.

This means striving each day to eat a variety of foods—vegetables, fruits, whole grains/starchy vegetables, protein foods, low-fat dairy, and fat. What does this look like for most people?

  • Half of each meal is vegetables and fruits. If your breakfast is a whole grain, like oatmeal, and does not include vegetables, get at least three vegetables servings per day by eating veggies as part of a snack or doubling up at a meal.
  • Fruit choices are whole fruits, without added sugar, rather than juice.
  • At least half of the whole grain servings recommended per day, are whole grains (e.g., brown rice, farro, barley, quinoa, whole wheat. Refined grains are all of the carbs without the nutrients or fiber. This category also includes starchy vegetables like butternut squash, sweet potatoes, peas, and corn.
  • Protein choices are lean, not fried, approximately the size of your smart phone, and include fish (e.g., salmon, tuna, lake trout) with seven ounces recommended each week because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. Non-animal sources of protein are also encouraged (e.g., nuts, beans, peas, and legumes).
  • Dairy choices, optimally, are low-fat, and fortified with vitamin D. If a choice is yogurt, which contains healthy organisms (probiotic), even better!

What about fats and sweets?

  • Eating healthy fats, such as extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, or avocado is recommended. They also help you feel satisfied!
  • Sweets and treats are best enjoyed sometimes rather than daily because of their limited nutrient content.

It is good reminder to think about an overall pattern of eating. In other words, thank goodness each day does not need to be perfect! It is reassuring to know that eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein foods, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats will fuel you for 18.2!

Happy and healthful eating,


Donna G. Pertel, MEd, RD, LDN