Exploring the Field of Nutrition: Tips and Insights

  • Date posted

    Mar 07, 2024

  • Reading time

    5 minutes

  • Guest blogger

    Melissa Jaeger, RD, LD, Hy-Vee Dietitian

National Nutrition Month in March is a great opportunity to consult with a registered dietitian for a personalized nutrition plan. Gain insightful nutrition tips from Hy-Vee's Registered Dietitian, Melissa Jaeger, to kickstart your journey.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear someone mention “nutrition”? Perhaps words such as “food,” “healthy,” “good,” “bad,” “guilt,” and “diet” come to the front of the mind. What if, instead of associating our food choices with guilt or uncertainty, we chose to view nutrition as a positive way to support our overall health and wellbeing? The foods we eat each day can have a positive impact on our health, from our hair, skin, and nails to our immune system, bone health, cognitive function, gut health, mood, vision, heart and kidney function, and more!

So, let’s break down where to start when it comes to building a balanced diet and a few key nutrients to consider along the way.

Building a balanced diet

Gone is the outdated food pyramid and in its place is MyPlate! MyPlate outlines the five food groups that create a balanced meal: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy/fortified dairy alternatives. Each food group provides us with essential nutrients to support our health. It is recommended that we fill half of our plates with fruits and vegetables at meals. Fruits and vegetables not only provide us with fiber to fill us up and keep us full longer but also provide us with a variety of antioxidants – protecting our cells from damage – and an assortment of vitamins and minerals.

Fill the other half of your plate with grains and protein, and round out your meal with a serving of dairy or a fortified dairy alternative containing calcium and vitamin D to support bone health. If you aren’t consuming all five food groups on a regular basis, start by incorporating three of the five food groups at a meal and two food groups at a snack – prioritizing a source of protein paired with a fiber-rich food such as a fruit, vegetable, or whole grain.

Consider key nutrients

Now that we have outlined the basics of a balanced diet, let’s dive deeper into a few key nutrients that can support our health.

First up is our friend – fiber! According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, more than 90% of women and 97% of men do not consume daily recommended intakes of fiber. Recommended fiber intakes vary by age and gender but aim for an average of 25 – 30 grams per day. Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Eating food with fiber at a meal or snack helps with blood glucose management, satiety, digestion, cholesterol management, and more!

There are two types of fiber:
  • Insoluble: Acts like a broom. It moves bulk through the intestines; prevents constipation. Food sources: green beans, leafy vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts.
  • Soluble: Acts like a sponge. Binds with fatty acids and can help lower cholesterol. Food sources: apples, oranges, berries, pears, oat bran, flax seed.

It is recommended to consume both soluble and insoluble fiber regularly in your diet to obtain health benefits.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect our cells from free radicals. Exposure to free radicals is common and occurs daily via air pollution, ultraviolet light from the sun, or secondhand smoke. Vitamin C not only supports our immune system but plays a critical role in collagen production – a protein in our bodies that is a component of our skin, cartilage, and muscles. Incorporate vitamin C into your diet through citrus fruits, kiwi, broccoli, or red bell peppers.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for our vision, immune system, and skin health. The term “retinol” refers to preformed vitamin A, found in animal products. Scaly, dry skin can indicate vitamin A deficiency. Add more preformed vitamin A to your diet by incorporating salmon, eggs, or fortified dairy milk into your weekly meal plan.

Last but not least: When supporting our health, consider your hydration status! Staying hydrated helps your body deliver critical nutrients to cells, keeps organs functioning properly, prevents constipation, helps you regulate body temperature, keeps joints lubricated, and more! A general rule of thumb is to consume half your body weight in fluid ounces of water each day. Your hydration status is also impacted by environmental conditions, your workouts, how much you sweat, your age, your weight, and more! It is important to focus on your hydration all day and not just around your workouts or when you feel thirsty in order to support your immune system function and overall wellbeing.

This was just a taste of the world of nutrition, so consider having the support of a nutrition expert – a registered dietitian – to help you navigate your personal nutrition plan. March is National Nutrition Month® and the perfect time to connect with a registered dietitian.

Hy-Vee registered dietitians offer services virtually and in-person at Hy-Vee locations throughout the Midwest. Speak with a Hy-Vee registered dietitian who can help you create a plan that works for you. If you’re ready to learn how a Hy-Vee dietitian can help you, schedule a complimentary Discovery Session today by contacting our Discovery Call Center via email at nutritionservices@hy-vee.com, by phone at (515) 695-3121 or by visiting https://www.hy-vee.com/healthnew/dietitians.

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Photo credit: Melissa Jaeger

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