The word “healthy” plays such a large role in our vocabulary. Whether we’re talking about a healthy mindset, healthy food, healthy environment or even healthy choices, these phrases hold a lot of meaning. But for many, the word healthy may seem ambiguous and confusing. Depending on where you’re from and what you’ve learned along the way, this term may be defined differently. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, my job is to provide more nutrition education and clarity to help you build healthy habits within your lifestyle.
Let’s start with the common question of, “Is this healthy?” What comes to mind for you when scanning the health value of a food? What criteria do you use to identify something as healthy? If you’re not sure what to look for, you might start by using the nutrition facts label as a guide, identifying certain food groups from the food pyramid or determining portion sizes via MyPlate. MyPlate, launched by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is used as a visual representation of how we can strive to eat for most meals and helps guide users to make healthier choices.
At Kroger Health, our food philosophy states all foods fit within a healthy eating pattern. Yes, that’s right, all food can be considered healthy with respect to portion size and your individual nutrition goals and needs.
Let’s review a few key principles outlined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that we should consider when building a healthy plate:
1. Fruits and Vegetables: One serving of fruit is equal to 1 cup of raw or cooked fruit, ½ cup dried fruit or 1 cup of 100% fruit juice. A serving of vegetables includes 1 cup of raw or ½ cup cooked veggies, 2 cups of leafy greens or 1 cup of 100% vegetable juice. When building your meal, aim to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. Here are some key produce products to consider, and creative ways to use them in your meals:
- Simple Truth Organic® Riced Cauliflower Stir Fry Vegetables: Add tofu or any lean protein, like chicken breast, pork loin or fish, to your stir-fry. Or make a cold salad with cooked stir-fry vegetables as the base and topped with chopped roasted peanuts, cilantro and a squeeze of lime for a punch of flavor.
- Private Selection® Mexican Inspired Elote Mexican Corn: Use as a base for a taco bowl and top with fresh bell peppers, pickled red onions and jalapeños.
- Private Selection™ Feta Sundried Tomato & Rosemary Petite Potatoes: Serve with chicken Parmesan, crispy salmon or use as a base for a potato bowl.
2. Dairy: When it comes to dairy, you want to choose a low-fat or fat-free option; these will include 3 grams of fat or less per serving. One serving of dairy is equal to 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1 cup of fortified non-dairy beverage, 1½ ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese. Lactose-free or fortified soy versions are also recommended.
- Kroger® Vanilla Light Nonfat Greek Yogurt: Only 90 calories and packed with 13 grams of protein per serving, this yogurt is great as part of breakfast, a mid-day snack or latenight treat to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Simple Truth Organic® Vanilla Soymilk: A dairy-free, high protein alternative, vanilla soymilk tastes delicious and is similar in nutrition to cow’s milk. Use it in baked goods, coffee drinks or even have a glass for a post-workout drink.
3. Grains: A serving of grains is equal to 1 ounce of bread, 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal or ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta or cereal. Aim to make half of your grains whole grains. Pro tip: look for the word “whole” within the first ingredient listed to ensure there is less processing and more intact fiber, which is beneficial for gut health.
- Seeds of Change Organic Spanish Style Rice: Ready in 90 seconds, this smokey and flavorful Spanish-style rice is a great base for a paella, arroz con pollo or even stuffed into a burrito.
- Toufayan Whole Wheat Pita Loaves 6 Count: Acting as a good source of protein and fiber, these 150-calorie pitas can work great as a snack to dip in hummus or as a gyro for dinner.
4. Protein: One serving of protein includes about 3 ounces of cooked meat, ¼ cup of nuts or seeds, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or ½ cup cooked beans. To best support your body, vary your proteins. An easy way to enjoy different types of proteins on different nights of the week is by doing theme nights, such as Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday and so forth.
- Private Selection® Mussels with a White Wine Butter & Garlic Sauce: With a whopping 31 grams of protein per serving, these mussels are tasty and are perfectly complemented by a side of rice and vegetables. They also work well as an appetizer.
- Kroger Brand Hard Cooked Peeled Eggs: Eggs are one of the least expensive proteins in the grocery store! Use these hard-boiled eggs for quick snacking, an avocado egg salad or to add protein to your salad.
- Kroger Brand Beef Shaved Steak: Shredded lean beef is the perfect protein for your Philly cheesesteak.
More Healthy Eating Tips
Remember to consume more nutrient-dense foods and manage your portions when it comes to foods that contain more “empty calories” or not as much nutritional value. Enjoy more mangos, dates, kale, lentils and nuts, and consume soda, candy and baked goods in moderation.
Now that you have some fresh ideas for what makes a meal healthy, how do you continue to make healthier choices? The simple answer is: Enjoy what you eat! Experiment with food, customize your choices and reach out to a registered dietitian for individual support. We work with you to create a customized plan and counseling strategies to ensure your relationship with food is always strong and that maintaining healthy eating patterns can come naturally. A healthy relationship with food is crucial for continued success!