Let’s be real – does anyone really know what healthy means? With all the health information out there, it can be a little difficult to know what “healthy food” means. I have heard foods like carbohydrates, red meat, avocados, and even cheese labeled “unhealthy”, but I am here to tell you all these foods fit in a well-balanced, healthy diet. Yup, I used the word healthy to describe those feeds. Let me tell you why.
When it comes to food, I like to describe it using the words “nutrient-dense” and “calorie-dense”. This refers to the amount of nutrient provided by a food compared to the amount of calories provided. For example, fruit is a more nutrient-dense food than say, a donut. Keep this concept in mind when eating out at restaurants or putting together a meal of your own. Just a note – I do not sit around and count my calories, by the way. I do, however, evaluate the nutrient density of my food.
Consider this: one cup of avocado, sliced has 234 calories but has 20% DV (daily value based on 2000 calories diet) of vitamin B6, 24% vitamin C, 10% magnesium, and 14 g monounsaturated fat. In contrast, 2 tablespoons of Nutella has about 200 calories, 4% DV of calcium, 8% DV iron, and 6% DV magnesium. To make this comparison, I highlighted the nutrients found in the highest amounts for each of these foods. As you can see, avocados may have more calories but are packed with nutrients compared with delicious, creamy, chocolate-y Nutella (brb…I need a little Nutella in my life right now). I’m not here to tell you not to ever eat calorie-dense foods. There is a time and a place for everything. But to maintain a well-balanced diet, I aim to eat nutrient-dense foods 80% of the time, and whatever else 20% of the time.
So, to help out all you lovely people out there, I’ve created a little cheat sheet to help you eat more nutrient dense foods. I use this guideline to help me make my major meals. When considering a snack, I focus on mixing two macro-nutrients (lean protein, complex carbohydrate, or healthy fat). Refer back to this guide whenever you want to know how well you are eating. Click here for you free, nutrient-dense eating guide.
I hope it helps you as much as it helps me.