County foods for good nutrition

June 22, 2012|Lynn Little

Are you bored with your eating habits? Does it seem like you eat the same old things meal after meal?

Have you ever thought about how many different foods you eat in a day?

Eating a variety of foods is the best way to get the nutrients your body craves and to satisfy your taste buds with a variety of flavors, colors, textures and smells. For maximum satisfaction, enjoyment and nutrition, plan your meals and snacks with variety in mind. Eating a wide variety of foods is an essential step to a long and healthy life.

The best reason to focus on variety is to get all the nutrients your body requires for optimal health. No one food, or food group, has everything you need. Scientists have identified over 600 important compounds in the foods we eat and they regularly discover new ones.

Just for fun, count the foods you eat today. If it's less than 30, add variety with foods that combine several nutrient-rich ingredients. For example, enjoy seven-grain toast with peanut butter for breakfast, fruit salad with cottage cheese at lunch, and chicken stir-fry with lots of veggies for dinner.

  • Enjoy colorful foods: Bright green broccoli, bright orange sweet potatoes and bright yellow squash are three tasty veggie treats.
  • Enjoy crunchy foods: When it comes to crunchy options, veggies such as carrots, celery, pea pods and beans can't be beat.
  • Enjoy crisp foods: Produce bins are full of refreshing, crisp foods, such as apples, fresh peppers, Romaine lettuce and raw spinach.
  • Enjoy juicy foods: Refresh yourself with ripe plums, peaches, pineapple, nectarines, tangerines, grapefruits and pears.
  • Enjoy tangy foods: Tomatoes are a classic tangy ingredient —; fresh in a salad, canned in sauce or sun-dried on a pizza.
  • Enjoy sweet foods: Cherries and berries — blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries —  provide a delicious ending to a meal.
  • Enjoy meaty foods: For hearty protein, choose from beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, salmon, sole, halibut, tuna or shrimp.
  • Enjoy chewy food: Breads made from whole grains, like wheat, oats, rye or barley are filling, satisfying and nutritious.
  • Enjoy nutty foods: Small amounts of nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, flax or sunflower, add flavor and crunch.
  • Enjoy creamy foods: Low-fat dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese) offer a creamy, calcium-rich texture
  • Enjoy zesty foods: There's no need to eat a boring meal ever again. Add zest with lemon, pepper, basil, oregano or parsley.
  • Enjoy spicy foods: For real zing, start with your favorite herbs and spice it up with garlic, onions, cumin and chili peppers.

Try to expand your food horizons. Eating a wider variety of nutrient-rich foods helps prevent cancer, heart disease and stroke — and it's a treat for your taste buds at the same time.

Visit and search for the Ten Tips nutrition education series. You will find a wealth of suggestions that can help you get started toward a healthy diet and increase the variety of foods you eat.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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