*Contributed by Dawn Holmes, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
Ever wonder what fuel your body needs each day to function at its best? The Institute of Medicine publishes charts that list the amount of each nutrient we need on a daily basis - calcium, vitamin E, potassium, copper, etc. But we don’t eat individual nutrients, we eat food. Imagine grocery shopping with these on your list: 4700 milligrams (mg) of potassium, 1200 mg calcium, 900 mg of copper, and 15 mg of Vitamin E. Daunting, if not impossible! Instead, let’s focus on food recommendations since each food contains a variety of the nutrients we need each day.
MyPlate provides an excellent snap-shot of these foods. Its’ website, www.choosemyplate.gov, also has a SuperTracker where you can enter your height, weight, age, and activity for an accurate calorie target. Then you can print a personalized plan with appropriate amounts for each food group.
Here’s a quick guide to meeting your daily needs through food:
1. Veggies: Nutrient powerhouses as they provide many of the vitamins and minerals the body needs to direct metabolism and training adaptations. Great sources of fiber to keep you full but low in calories to help with weight control. The key is to vary the types of veggies throughout the week.
- Dark green – broccoli, kale, collards, bok choy, spinach, romaine lettuceGreat source of folate, vitamin A, fiber, calcium, vitamin C
- Red and orange – tomatoes, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, carrots, squashGreat sources of potassium, vitamin A, and beta
- Beans and peas – black beans, split peas, kidney beans, soy beansFiber and potassium
- Starchy veggies – corn, lima beans, potatoes, peasGreat sources of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C
- Others – beets, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, etc.
2. Fruits: Similar benefits to veggies as they provide many vitamins and minerals. They are also delicious sources of carbohydrates or nature’s sugar.
- Choose different colors each day – reds, blues, greens, yellows, white
- Red: memory boost
- Purple/blue: helps prevent heart disease
- Green: eye health and may help prevent some cancers
- Yellow/orange: heart health
- White: healthy blood pressure
3. Grains: Choose whole grains as much as possible. The closer to its original plant, the better quality of nutrients. Grains are great sources of carbohydrates and fiber.
- Oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread or pita, bulgar
- Great source of fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, Vitamin E, iron, magnesium, and selenium
4. Protein: Lean sources are an excellent source of this essential nutrient without providing excess saturated fat, which can contribute to elevated cholesterol levels and heart disease. Spread your protein throughout the day, not just at lunch and dinner. This will provide a consistent supply to your muscle as they make repairs throughout the day.
- Lean beef and pork, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, soy, tofu, beans and nuts
- Great sources of iron, zinc, B12, and omega-3s (fish)
5. Dairy:A fantastic source of calcium. If you can’t tolerate or don’t like dairy, then it’s essential to find other calcium sources to keep your bones strong and lessen the risk of stress fractures.
- Low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt, calcium-fortified soy or almond milk, calcium-fortified tofu, or calcium-fortified orange juice
- Great source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, protein and carbohydrates
6. Healthy Fats: We need at least 20-35% of our calories to come from fat. A 2000 calorie diet should include 45-75 grams of fat each day. Focusing on plant-based fats will keep your heart healthy.
- Avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil
- Unsaturated fats from plant sources are great source of essential fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, and won’t raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Want help incorporating these foods into your schedule and training? Contact Sports Dietitian, Dawn Holmes, to schedule an appointment. firstname.lastname@example.org