Being mindful about what you eat includes understanding what it is that you are putting into your body, and why foods are labeled as good or bad for you.
Most fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense, below are just a selection of some of the best options and ways to incorporate them into your diet:
Kale - an incredible superfood that can be used in salads, or added to stir fry or soups. Kale is a diverse and powerful foodstuff to add to your menu, 100grams of it contains 49 calories, less than 1g of fat, 9g of carbs and 4g of protein. It is rich in dietary fiber and the minerals potassium, calcium, and magnesium as well as Vitamins A, K, C and folate.2 - impressive.
Spinach - similar to kale in that it’s high in nutrients and low in calories. Spinach and kale can both be cooked down to further concentrate their nutrient density - anyone who has ever cooked spinach is probably very aware of how much this food shrinks down as it cooks. 100g of spinach will contain around 23 calories, less than 1g of fat, 4g of carbs and 3g of protein. Additionally, spinach has over 100% of the RDA (recommended daily amount) of vitamin A, more than half of the RDA of Vitamin C and about half of the RDA of folate.3. Also like kale, spinach is very diverse and can easily be added to dishes such as salad, stir fry and omelets.
Mushrooms - a natural source of both Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, which are usually found in animal-based foods, making mushrooms a great substitute for meat for those enjoying a plant-based diet. There are lots of different varieties of mushrooms, in all shapes and sizes and each offers varying levels of nutrients. All varieties, however, are high in fiber and high in B vitamins, with 100g of mushrooms containing just 22 calories, less than half a gram of fat, 3g of carbs and 3g of protein. Mushrooms can be added to salad, omelets, stir fry, pasta, risottos - almost anything is improved with the addition of mushrooms.
Potatoes - incredibly accessible, cheap, long-lasting and good for you too. Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick them in a stew - there are so many options when it comes to potatoes. This starchy vegetable is filled with vitamins B1, B3, and B6, and the minerals potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. In 100g of potato, you’ll find just 77 calories, less than 1g of fat, 17g of carbs and 2g of protein. The slow-releasing energy of potatoes will keep you going for longer.
Brussel Sprouts - the vegetable the world loves to hate, brussel sprouts are usually a staple of Christmas dinners around the globe but can provide much-needed nutrients all year round. Part of the cabbage family, brussel sprouts are full of fiber (hence their toot-inducing reputation), and have more than 1.5 times the RDA for Vitamin C. 100g of brussels contain just 43 calories, less than a gram of fat, 9g of carbs and 3.5g of protein.
Blueberries - great for a light snack, a yogurt or oats topping, or as a muffin filling. Blueberries are a well-known antioxidant and they are a source of vitamins C, K, potassium, manganese and fiber, undeniably a superfood fruit. In 100g of blueberries, you’ll find just 57 calories, 0.3g fat, 14g of carbohydrates and 0.7g protein. Definitely worth adding to your shopping list all year round.
Lentils - a staple foodstuff for many who enjoy a plant-based diet, lentils are filled with macros, fiber, iron, zinc, and selenium as well as the vitamins A, B, K, and E. Lentils come in many different varieties, and are easy to flavor to your taste. Try swapping mince meat for lentils the next time you cook up a shepherd’s pie.
Salmon - neither a fruit or a vegetable but incredibly nutrient-dense. Salmon is a source of protein and promotes heart health with its omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also a source of B vitamins, potassium, selenium, and magnesium. In 100g of salmon, you’ll find 206 calories, 12g of fat, zero carbs, and 20g of protein. Serve it up on a bed of kale with a side of new potatoes for a nutrient-rich lunch or dinner.
Eggs - whether you prefer chicken, duck or even quail eggs the fact remains the same - they’re a nutrient-dense source of protein, vitamins and minerals. It’s recommended to not eat eggs every day due to their cholesterol content, however, the pros far outweigh the cons. In 100g of eggs, you’ll find 155 calories, 11g of fat, 1g of carbs and 13g of protein. Poach or scramble your eggs and serve with fresh spinach and avocado for a powerful brunch.
Shellfish - the nutrients that you can gain through oysters, scallops, mussels and clams can be hard to find in other non-red meat food sources. Great if you’re trying to cut down on your red-meat intake. Shellfish may be small, but they offer excellent levels of vitamins B12, other B vitamins and vitamin C. For example, in 100g of clams, you will find 148 calories, 2g of fat, 11g of carbs and 14g of protein. Serve with a side salad of kale and mushrooms for a nutrient-rich meal.
There are tons more nutrient-dense foods that we haven’t listed, the more you expand your knowledge of which foodstuffs contribute to your nutrition levels, the smarter the choices you’ll make when it comes to your diet.