Before you eat, it’s a good idea to think first about what goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl. Use MyPlate as your shopping guide to help you plan simple yet balanced meals and snacks that are delicious and nutritious.
1. Focus on fruits.
Buy fruits that are in season for the best quality, taste and value. For example, spring is a great time to purchase strawberries and rhubarb.
Besides fresh fruit, frozen fruit, fruit canned in its own juice, and dried fruits (like apricots and apples) are also great options since there is no sugar added to these products.
2. Vary your veggies.
Vegetables come in many forms. No-salt-added canned vegetables and steam-in-the-bag frozen vegetables are great go-to items that can add color, flavor and nutrition to quick weeknight meals.
Spring is a great time to buy green vegetables such as peas, asparagus, leeks and lettuce. Add baby spinach to salads and pasta sauces, or sauté the spinach with garlic for a quick side dish.
3. Make at least half your grains whole.
This can be accomplished with just a few simple swaps. Choose 100 percnt whole wheat bread or whole-grain bakery bread instead of white bread or bagels; select brown rice to replace white rice. (Tip: Buy the frozen steam-in-the-bag brown rice). Use 100 percent whole wheat pasta.
Stock up on various grains like wild rice, quinoa and bulgur wheat, and add one or more of these grains to stews, casseroles and salads.
4. Go lean with protein.
Browse the meat department for lean cuts of meat like beef sirloin, chicken breast and pork tenderloin. Choose 93 percent lean ground beef or turkey when making burgers.
For meat alternatives that still provide a good amount of protein, try tofu in stir-fry or frozen veggie crumbles in pasta sauces. Add no-salt-added beans or shelled edamame to soups, stews and salads, or use these beans to make hummus or creamy dips.
Eggs are also a great source of protein. Enjoy eggs at breakfast, bring one or two hard-boiled eggs to work or school for an easy go-to snack, or create a frittata for a simple supper.
5. Get your calcium-rich foods.
Choose milk with 1 percent fat or less, 2 percent shredded cheese and fat-free yogurt. Crumbled cheeses like feta are also a good option for finishing salads or topping flatbreads.
Enjoy this dinner idea that includes all five food groups:
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
All you need:
• 4 cups peeled, cubed sweet potatoes
• ½ tsp salt
• 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 large yellow onions, diced
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• ½ cup dried cranberries (or raisins)
• 1 tbsp ground cumin
• 1 tbsp ground coriander
• 1 (15 oz) can no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
• ½ bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 cup 2 percent sharp cheddar cheese
• 6 (8-inch) multigrain tortillas
• light sour cream and pickled jalapenos, optional
All you do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan with ½ teaspoon salt and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
While the sweet potatoes cook, warm the oil over medium heat in a large skillet or saucepan and add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander and cook for 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a food processor or blender, combine the black beans, cilantro, lemon juice, salt and cooked sweet potato and puree until smooth.
Transfer the sweet potato mixture to a large mixing bowl and mix in cooked onions, cranberries, spices and cheese.
Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon 2 to 3 scoops of filling in the center of each tortilla and roll up. Place each burrito in the baking dish seam-side-down. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Serve topped with salsa and other garnishes as desired.
Nutrition facts, per serving: 410 calories, 9 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, no trans-fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,090 milligrams of sodium, 68 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of fiber, 17 grams of sugar, 15 grams of protein.
Daily values: 260 percent of vitamin A, 20 percent of vitamin C, 25 percent of calcium, 15 percent of iron.
Source: Adapted from Epicurious.com.