How to change your diet: Choose foods rich in nutrients


You need to choose a diet consisting of nutrient-rich foods. Nutrient-rich (or nutrient-rich) foods are low in sugar, sodium, starch and low in fat. They contain a lot of vitamins and minerals and few calories. Your body needs vitamins and minerals, also known as micronutrients. They nourish your body and help you stay healthy. They can reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Getting them through food ensures that your body can absorb them properly.

Try to eat a variety of foods to get different vitamins and minerals. Foods that are naturally rich in nutrients include fruits and vegetables. Lean meat, fish, whole grains, dairy products, legumes, nuts and seeds are also rich in nutrients.

The road to better health

You may not get all the micronutrients your body needs. Americans tend to eat foods high in calories and low in micronutrients. These foods often contain added sugar, sodium (salt) and saturated or trans fats. This type of diet contributes to weight gain. This can increase the risk of health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), older Americans may not be getting enough of the following micronutrients.

Nutrient food sources
calcium Skim and low-fat dairy products, milk substitutes, broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables and sardines
potassium Banana, melon, raisins, walnuts, fish, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables
Fiber Legumes (dried beans and peas), whole grains and bran, seeds, apples, strawberries, carrots, raspberries and flowers and vegetables
magnesium Spinach, black beans, peas and almonds
Vitamin A Eggs, milk, carrots, sweet potatoes and melons
Vitamin C Oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwis, broccoli and red and green peppers
Vitamin E Avocados, nuts, seeds, whole grains, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables

All of the above foods are good choices. Below are suggestions for changing your diet to make it richer in nutrients.


Whole foods are low in fat. They are also rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates. This helps you feel full longer and prevents you from overeating. Check the list of ingredients for the word “whole”. For example, “wholemeal flour” or “wholemeal oatmeal”. Look for products that contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Some fortified flours have fiber, but are not high in nutrients.

Choose these foods:

  • Oat flakes or oatmeal.
  • Wholemeal pasta.
  • Wholemeal tortillas.
  • Wholemeal (wheat or rye) biscuits, bread and rolls.
  • Brown or wild rice.

Barley, quinoa, buckwheat, whole corn and cracked wheat.

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat. They add nutrients, flavor and variety to your diet. Look for colorful fruits and vegetables, especially orange and dark green.

Choose these foods:

  • Broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
  • Leafy vegetables such as chard, cabbage, lettuce and bok choy.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and cabbage.
  • Pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips and pumpkin.
  • Peas, green beans, peppers and asparagus.
  • Apples, plums, mangoes, papayas, pineapples and bananas.
  • Blueberries, strawberries, cherries, pomegranates and grapes.
  • Citrus fruits such as grapefruit and oranges.
  • Peaches, pears and melons.
  • Tomatoes and avocados.

Beef, chicken, fish and beans

Beef, pork, beef and lamb

Choose lean meat with low fat content. Look for the words “round”, “belt” or “leg” in their names. Remove the fat before cooking. Cut off any detachable internal fat before eating. Roasting, grilling and roasting are the healthiest ways to prepare these meats. Limit how often you eat beef, pork, beef and lamb. Even lean cuts contain more fat and cholesterol than other sources of protein.

Domestic birds

Chicken breasts are a good part of poultry. They are low in fat and high in protein. Remove skin and external fat before cooking. Roasting, grilling and roasting are the healthiest ways to cook poultry.


Fresh fish and crustaceans must be moist and light in color. They must smell clean and have a firm, elastic flesh. If there is no fresh fish, choose frozen or canned fish with low salt content. Wild-caught fatty fish is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. These include salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. Poaching, steaming, roasting and grilling are the healthiest ways to cook fish.

Beans and other non-native sources

Sources of non-meat proteins can also be rich in nutrients. Try a serving of beans, peanut butter, other nuts or seeds.

Choose these foods:

  • Lean cuts of beef, pork, beef and lamb.
  • Turkey bacon.
  • Ground chicken or turkey.
  • Salmon and other oily wild fish.
  • Haddock and other white fish.
  • Wild tuna (canned or fresh).
  • Shrimp, mussels, mussels and lobster (without added fat).
  • Legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas.
  • Seeds and nuts, including nut oil.

Dairy products and milk substitutes

Choose skim milk, low-fat milk or fortified milk substitutes. Try replacing cream with steamed skim milk in recipes and coffee. Choose low-fat or non-fat cheeses.

Choose these foods:

  • Low-fat, skimmed, nut or fortified milk, such as soya or rice.
  • Skim ricotta instead of cream cheese.
  • Low fat cottage cheese.
  • Thread cheese.

Usually skim yogurt instead of sour cream.

Aspects to be considered

Most nutrient-rich foods are located on the perimeter (outer circle) of a grocery store. The amount of nutrient-rich foods you need to eat depends on your daily calorie needs. The USDA website,, offers nutrition information for adults and children.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • How can I easily add these foods to my daily diet?
  • How can I be sure that I eat enough nutrient-rich foods if I follow a strict diet, such as vegetarian or vegan?
  • Can I take supplements or multivitamins to increase the nutrients I consume?

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Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians

This information provides an overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and for more information on this topic.

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