Celebrate National Nutrition Month by Eating the Rainbow!
March is National Nutrition Month, so there’s no time like the present to discover new ways to improve your nutrition at any age or stage of life!
You may have heard the foodie phrase “eat the rainbow”, but what does that mean when it comes to feeding yourself and your family? There are lots of important nutrients necessary to lead a healthy life. Many of those nutrients can be found in brightly colored red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods. “Eat the rainbow” reminds us to eat a variety of these colorful vegetables, fruits, and grains to get a variety of nutrients.
How can dairy help us eat a healthier, more colorful diet?
One way to improve children’s nutrition is to combine foods they already enjoy with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains you’d like to see them eat more of (Rowell et al. 2015). Many young children are fans of the taste and texture of dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and milk. Combine these familiar dairy foods with fruits, vegetables and grains to help children get more excited to try something new!
Dairy foods made from cows milk are a high-quality source of protein because they contain all 9 essential amino acids in an easy-to-digest form. You may already know that protein provides energy, and repairs muscle after exercise, but did you know that protein also helps us feel full and satisfied for longer after a meal? In comparison to fats and carbohydrates, protein foods alone or combined with fats and carbs increase blood sugar more slowly over time, which makes us feel fuller and more satisfied for longer. This helps with portion control and healthy weight management as well as reduces risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes (Anderson et al. 2011).
Let’s talk a bit more about the foods that make up the “rainbow” of nutritious meals
The fruit group includes a variety of tree fruits like apples and pears, stone fruits like peaches and cherries, and berries like raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries. Fruit is an easy whole food to take on the go, that is low-calorie, low-fat, and low-sodium. Fruit also provides things Americans often don’t eat enough of, like vitamin C, fiber, and water. Sliced pears and low-fat cottage cheese is an excellent fruit and dairy snack combination for both kids and adults!
Food Hero’s Hoppin’ Pear Salad
Vegetables have many vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and water just like fruit, but are uniquely high in vitamin A, which is in many dark green, red, yellow, and orange vegetables. Vitamin A is important for our eye and skin health. Vegetables are also rich in folate, important for growth, and potassium which helps maintain healthy blood pressure. A great way to combine the benefits of dairy foods and colorful vegetables is a yogurt-based dip and fresh chopped carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers.
Food Hero’s Cucumber Yogurt Dip
We’ve mentioned that fiber is in fruits and vegetables, but it is especially abundant in whole grains. Fiber is a kind of complex carbohydrate that takes longer to digest, which helps you feel full for longer after eating (Clark et al. 2013). Whole grains are rich in vitamins and minerals not found in other foods. Foods like whole wheat pasta and bread, oats, and brown rice are good sources of B vitamins, iron, and selenium. A breakfast of oatmeal made with milk combines the benefits of whole grains and the 13 essential nutrients provided by dairy.
Food Hero’s Apple Spiced Oatmeal
For more snack and meal inspiration check out the awesome free recipes shared on Food Hero. For more information on personal nutrition explore USDA My Plate.
Rowell, K., McGlothlin, J., & Morris, S. E. (2015). Helping your child with extreme picky eating: A step-by-step guide for overcoming selective eating, food aversion, and feeding disorders. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Anderson, G. H., Luhovyy, B., Akhavan, T., & Panahi, S. (2011). Milk proteins in the regulation of body weight, satiety, food intake and glycemia. Nestle Nutrition workshop series. Paediatric programme, 67, 147–159. https://doi.org/10.1159/000325581
Clark, M. J., & Slavin, J. L. (2013). The effect of fiber on satiety and food intake: a systematic review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 32(3), 200–211. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2013.791194