Variety is the spice of life. And never is this more appropriate than when planning nutritious meals and snacks. Combining a variety of foods from the food groups in the MyPlate guide (1) can make it easier to get the daily amounts of nutrients you need for good health. Pairing ‘tried and true’ favorites with less frequently consumed foods can also make healthful eating delicious and fun.
Let’s take a look at the facts. The MyPlate guidelines suggest making half your plate fruits and veggies, including three servings of dairy daily, and making at least half your grains whole grains.
But the reality is that most Americans don’t eat like MyPlate. A recent study reported that 76% of Americans don’t consume enough fruit and 87% eat too few vegetables. (2) Likewise, while most Americans consume enough grains, few are whole grains, and many don’t consume enough dairy foods.
As a result, Americans underconsume key nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E and C, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber, as identified in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report. (3)
The good news is that eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods can boost your intake of these “shortfall nutrients.” In particular, dairy foods deliver calcium, potassium and vitamins A and D; and fruit, vegetables and whole grains supply vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, magnesium and fiber.
That brings us to “perfect pairings.” As one of the most popular foods in the dairy group, cheese is a natural source of calcium and protein, and combining it with fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help boost your intake of nutrients typically in short supply.
For instance, natural Cheddar cheese is an ideal match for fresh grapes or apple slices as a snack. For other tasty ways to pair natural cheese at meals and snacks, consider these options.
Breakfast: a Florentine Omelet with tomatoes, spinach and Sargento® Shredded Mozzarella & Provolone Cheese, or a whole-wheat English muffin layered with tomato and a slice of Sargento® Sliced Sharp Cheddar Natural Cheese
Lunch: an Italian Grilled Cheese Sandwich on whole-grain bread layered with bell peppers, basil and Sargento® Sliced Mozzarella Cheese or a salad heaped with raw veggies and topped with your choice of shredded natural cheese
Dinner: a meal in minutes like Chicken & Broccoli Pasta Toss made with Sargento® Shredded Mozzarella - Fine Cut, whole-grain pasta and broccoli
Snack: a Sargento Colby-Jack Natural Cheese Snack with whole-grain crackers or raw veggies with cheese dip
Now that you see how the power of pairing can help boost nutrition while enhancing the flavor of the foods you eat, try using your imagination to come up with your own perfectly delicious pairings!
USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov http://www.choosemyplate.gov/about.html
Adults Meeting Fruit and Vegetable Intake Recommendations — United States, 2013” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 64(26);709-713 July 10, 2015.
Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
NEVA COCHRAN is a REGISTERED DIETITIAN NUTRITIONIST based in Dallas. She is a nutrition communications consultant to a variety of food and nutrition organizations, including Sargento. For 20 years she was a writer and researcher for WOMAN’S WORLD magazine. Neva has a B.S. IN NUTRITION AND DIETETICS from the University of Oklahoma and a M.S. IN NUTRITION from Texas Woman’s University.