“Whole grains, nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense so finding ways to integrate them into a daily diet is important,” says Sterling. “They are also versatile ingredients that can be used in a variety of recipes or to round out a meal.”
To boost whole grain consumption, Sterling suggests whole grain breads and pastas, as well as oats.
“Oats are a good source of fiber and protein. Plus, they are rich in thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, selenium and iron,” says Sterling. “They’re a wholesome ingredient for an oatmeal breakfast or can be used as the base for a healthy granola mix. To up your nutrient intake even more, add peanuts and dried fruit to the mix.”
Peanuts and peanut butter are another nutritional staple since they’re packed with nutrients and can be incorporated into either sweet or savory dishes.
Peanuts are known as a superfood because they deliver significant nutritional value in a small amount. Just one serving packs seven grams of protein, 19 vitamins and minerals, fiber and heart-healthy fats. One serving of peanuts is an ounce or approximately 35 peanuts and a serving of peanut butter is two tablespoons.
Dried or canned beans, such as lentils, chickpeas or kidney beans, also deliver protein and fiber.
Plus, since peanuts and beans are high in fiber and protein and low in fat, they’re a healthy substitute for meat. They can be made into a hearty and filling side dish, salad or soup to create a meal that’s full of protein and fiber, which will help you feel full longer and avoid the urge to snack.
While intentional, healthy snacking is fine, Sterling warns against the unhealthy habit of mindless eating.
“When reaching for something in between meals, think about the motivation for eating,” advises Sterling. “Is having a snack in response to hunger? Or, is it related to stress, anxiety or boredom? Pausing for a moment before snacking is a good way to evaluate whether it’s actually your body that’s looking for something to eat or if it’s your emotions that are driving your urge.”
Fruits and vegetables are another key ingredient for optimal health; and it’s important to remember they’re available fresh, frozen and canned.
Sterling says it’s vital to eat a variety of types and colors of produce in order to get a mix of different nutrients. No single fruit or vegetable provides all of the nutrients a body needs.
“A smoothie for breakfast is a great way to fit a serving, or more, of fruits or vegetables into the day,” adds Sterling.
For breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snack recipes that incorporate peanuts, peanut butter, and other pantry staples, visit peanutinstitute.com.
Dr. Samara Sterling is a Nutrition Scientist with expertise in the use of plant-based nutrition for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. She currently serves as the Research Director for The Peanut Institute and has also worked as a nutrition consultant for various community-based nutrition projects. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University, a master’s degree from Andrews University and a Ph.D. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Based in Albany, Ga., The Peanut Institute is a non-profit organization supporting nutrition research and developing educational programs to encourage healthful lifestyles that include peanuts and peanut products. The Peanut Institute pursues its mission through research programs, educational initiatives and the promotion of healthful lifestyles to consumers of all ages. As an independent forum, The Peanut Institute is uniquely positioned to work with all segments of the food industry, the research community, academia, consumer organizations and governmental institutions.
SOURCE The Peanut Institute