Put Your Best Fork Forward with Balanced Nutrition

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK/A_NAMENKO

National Nutrition Month has come and gone, but we can all continue to put our best fork forward by choosing a variety of foods that promote balanced nutrition throughout the year! That means choosing foods from all food groups, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and plant-based proteins, which offer a wide range of healthful components such as fiber and phytochemicals.

There are many ways to include healthful foods in your daily routine.  Apples are an excellent example of a food that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways — fresh, dried or juiced. It’s also important to remember that some forms of processing can remove nutritious components of foods. Peeling the skin off an apple removes nutrients and phytochemicals, while juicing removes fiber. Many fruits and vegetables are processed in similar ways that may impact their nutrient content. While all foods can be a part of a healthful diet, eating a variety of foods prepared in a variety of ways will help set you and your family on track to lead long and healthy lives.

Choose Whole Grains

Whole grains are those that contain all of their original components: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. When grains are refined through processes such as milling, cracking or crushing, some of the bran and the germ are lost, along with fiber and many valuable nutrients. Choosing whole grains foods like oatmeal or whole-wheat bread or pasta is a great way to add nutrients back into your diet!

Plan for Produce

Adding fruits and vegetables to your daily routine can be a challenge. Plan for success by adding produce to your weekly shopping list. Think ahead to find ways of adding fruits and veggies to your favorite meals and snacks. Try adding broccoli to macaroni and cheese and seasonal fruit to yogurt or cereal. Get your kids involved by having them choose a new fruit or vegetable to try each week. Keep it simple and make it fun!

Vary Your Protein

Protein comes from animal foods like meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, as well as plant-based sources, such as beans, soy, nuts and seeds. Changing your protein routine can ensure your diet is balanced and provides enough nutrients and fiber. Try a new recipe at least once a week including meals made with seafood and plant-based proteins. Ask your friends for recipes and create a book with your family's favorites!

Gillian Coy
Gillian Coy, MS, is a dietetic intern specializing in pediatric nutrition at Michigan Medicine. She earned her master's in nutrition at Bastyr University in Seattle, where she cultivated a love of whole foods, plant-based nutrition and the concept of healing the body with food.