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Nutritionally Powerful Food for 2013

By Margie Mansure (

Article Published: Dec. 26, 2012 | Modified: Dec. 26, 2012

Make 2013 your year for ultimate mental and physical performance by choosing nutritionally powerful foods. Taking a few steps to create the best possible food environment will make nourishing your body easy.

While it is possible to make healthy choices while dining out, preparing your own meals and snacks gives you full control over what you are putting into your body.

Begin by evaluating the contents of your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator and asking yourself these seven questions:

1. What percentage of my groceries contain a high amount of added sugar? The obvious culprits include soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, donuts, granola bars, chocolate, sweetened yogurt and candy. But you really have to read food labels to know for sure. The average American now consumes 22 to 28 teaspoons a day. Cutting back to 6 ½ teaspoons for women and 9 ½ for men is recommended. Don’t worry about naturally occurring sugars in fruit, milk and plain yogurt.

2. What choices do I have for easy-to-prepare snacks? It’s important to think this through for those hungry moments. The most satisfying snacks contain a little lean protein and carbohydrate, such as whole grain crackers with low fat cheese, whole grain cereal with milk, whole grain bread with nut butter and honey, yogurt with frozen berries.

3. Are my dairy products low in fat? Choose skim or 1 percent milk and reduced fat cheese to avoid artery-clogging saturated fat. 

4. Do I have a variety of fruit choices? Keep plenty of fruit available for snack times. Fresh fruit is optimal, frozen comes in second and canned third. If you have canned fruit, make sure it is in its own juice instead of heavy syrup. Fruits and vegetables contain disease preventing compounds and other nutrients for optimal functioning.

5. Do I have plenty of vegetable choices? Locally grown fresh is the first choice. But frozen vegetables in large bags can be very economical and high in nutrition.

6. Are my protein choices lean? Most vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels in part from eating lean protein, such as tofu and tempeh. But lean meat can come from any animal.

7. Are my pasta, rice, crackers, cereals and bread whole grain? Whole grains are known to keep blood sugar levels more even than refined grains and provide beneficial health promoting compounds.

Next, take a look at your recipes. Most people prepare the same eight or so recipes over and over. Think about how you could improve the nutritional quality. Consider adding more vegetables. For example, if spaghetti and marinara sauce is a favorite, add finely chopped fresh spinach or other favorite vegetables to the sauce, and choose whole wheat spaghetti.

If deep fried chicken is popular, think about breading the chicken and then sautéing in a small amount of olive oil or spraying non-stick spray over the coated chicken and baking. There are many tips for cutting calories and fat from recipes.

For a nutritionally powerful diet to come to fruition, planning meals every week and creating a grocery list before shopping is essential. Your new practices will soon become second nature, and you’ll look and feel better than ever.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. For more information, email or call (828) 264-3061

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