Note: This post is part of a special RD Day blog carnival organized by Janet Helm at Nutrition Unplugged. For more posts as part of the carnival, check out the links at the end.
By: Elizabeth Rahavi, RD Date: 3/7/11
How many times have you looked at a meal and wondered how can I get more color on my plate? We all have days when we’re running low on groceries, time, or motivation to put together an A+ meal, but usually, those are the days when we need a meal that looks as good as it tastes the most! March is the American Dietetic Association’s National Nutrition Month,® and this year’s theme is “Eat Right with Color.” This theme is not just a push to incorporate a variety of colorful foods in our diets—it is a great tool for getting more health benefits on your plate. Planning colorful meals will make your food look better and can serve as a way to check that your meal is well-balanced and includes nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fiber, and low-fat dairy or soy products, such as milk, cheese, or yogurt.
When it comes to meal planning, you may have heard the term ‘nutrient density’. This refers to foods that are rich in one or more nutrients per calorie. Foods that are naturally rich in color are often considered nutrient-dense. Examples of nutrient-dense, color-rich foods include: apples, bananas, kiwis, broccoli, bell peppers, strawberries, spinach, tomatoes, grapes, oranges, milk, yogurt, pumpkin, eggplant, soy, nuts, eggs, beans, peas, oils, avocados, foods that contain whole grains and fiber…the list goes on and on! By combining colorful foods such as these with the rest of your meal, you are sure to create a healthful plate.
Let your eyes and imagination be your guide to create more color on your plate. Here are a few ways to increase the healthfulness (and eye appeal) of some common meals:
Breakfast: Consider a plate of buttermilk pancakes with butter and syrup and a side of bacon.
• Swap out the buttermilk pancakes with whole-grain pancakes and add a sprinkle of walnuts to the batter to add whole grains, fiber, heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and B vitamins.
• In lieu of syrup, try spreading a tablespoon of your favorite yogurt on top of the pancakes to add calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and probiotics, which can help support digestive health. (NOTE: it is best to let the pancakes cool a little before spreading the yogurt.)
• Top the pancakes with a fresh fruit mixes of bananas, strawberries, and apples to get more vitamin C, potassium, lutein, fiber, and other healthful phytonutrients (plant nutrients), which can support heart and overall health.
• Consider swapping out the regular bacon soy or veggie bacon.
Dinner: Consider a meal of white rice, chicken breast, cauliflower, and a glass of milk.
• Swap out the white rice for brown rice to increase intake of fiber.
• Top the chicken with a tablespoon of salsa and a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese for a little added folate, vitamin C, potassium, lycopene, and calcium.
• Keep the milk—for calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus
Dessert: Have some fresh strawberries and blueberries with shavings of dark chocolate on top for dessert. This tasty treat is packed with flavanols, which that may support healthy blood flow and circulation.
If you catch yourself thinking “this meal looks a little plain” just switch up one of the sides, a beverage, or entree with something rich in color for a nutrient boost. For a detailed list of foods that can promote health and their associated health benefits, and tips for how to include more of these foods into your diet, see: Quick Tips to Give Your Diet a Boost.
Healthy Eating and Meal Planning Resources:
• National Nutrition Month Nutrition Education Resources (ADA—includes recipes!)
• Rate Your Plate Interactive Game (ADA)
Need some more color inspiration related to your specific health concern? Check out these videos
• Foods for Health: Building Healthy Kids and Families
• Foods for Health: Eating for Immune Health
• Foods for Health: Eating for Heart Health
• Foods for Health: Managing Your Weight
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend getting 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day—our challenge to you is to eat a different color for each serving! How will you get started?
Regan Jones, The Professional Palate: National Nutrition Month — Time for Show, Not Tell
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, Raise Healthy Eaters: The Wizard of Oz Guide to Making Healthy Habits Stick
Julie Upton, Katherine Brooking, Appetite for Health: Color Your Diet Healthy
Tracy Owens, Triangle Nutrition Therapy: National Nutrition Month
Karman Meyer, Nutrition Adventures: Color Your Plate
Rebecca Subbiah, Chow & Chatter: Add Color to Your Plate!
Sarah-Jane Bedwell, Nashville’s Nutrition Expert: Color Yourself Healthier
Lyn Turton, Caledonia Nutrition: National Nutrition Month – Eat With Color
Janet Helm, Nutrition Unplugged: It’s National Nutrition Month – Eat Right With Color
Emma Stirling, The Scoop on Nutrition: Hop on the Hemp Wagon for National Nutrition Month
Chere Bork, Taste Life: Five Ways to Eat the New USDA Science Guidelines
Bonnie Tandy LeBlang, Bite of the Best: National Nutrition Month – Registered Dietitian Day
Janel Ovrut, Eat Well With Janel: National Nutrition Month – Top Foods You’re Not Eating
Jessie Claire, Good and Good For You: Nutrition is all About Food
Rima Kleiner: Celebrating Food
Rachel Begun, The Gluten Free RD: National Nutrition Month – Eat Right With Color!
Liz Weiss, Janice Bissex, Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen: Celebrate National Nutrition Month by Eating a Rainbow
Victoria Shanta Retelny, Living Well Communications: Celebrate March by Eating Right
Elana Natker, A Sprinkle of Sage: What’s Your Nutrition Resolution?
Carolyn O’Neil, Dish on Dieting: Baby You Can Drive My Car…To the Healthiest Menus
Elizabeth Rahavi, IFIC’s Food Insight: Eat Right With a Colorful Plate
Jill Castle, Just the Right Byte: What Will It Take to Get America’s Kids to Eat Right?
Sheila Viswanathan, The Lazy Dietitian: Happy Registered Dietitian Day
Brittany Glasset, Nutrition in a Nutshell: National Nutrition Month – Make a Rainbow on Your Plate