Perryman Nutrition Column: Eat Colorful, Enjoy Good Health

Note to Reporters: The following column is written by Shirley Perryman, an Extension specialist in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. The department is part of the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University.

Signs of spring are showing with these occasional warm days, and for some a sign of spring is craving healthier food than what they may have been eating during cold winter months.

If your healthy eating plan has been on hiatus, maybe National Nutrition Month’s theme will motivate you to eat right with color. When you include all the colors of MyPyramid — — you’re on track to making healthful choices. You can even make your own personalized food plan.

Each color of MyPyramid represents a food group and the recommended proportion of foods from each group. MyPyramid is a tool that you can use to follow the recently released dietary guidelines for Americans. To include all of the colors of MyPyramid as you march toward a healthy eating plan — and don’t forget to be active, too — follow these tips:

Grains (represented by the color orange on MyPyramid)
Make at least half of your daily grains whole grains and get at least three 1-ounce servings of whole grains every day.

  • Choose whole grain bread. Check the ingredients label for whole grain content rather than judging based on the color of the bread. Verify that whole wheat or other whole grain is the first ingredient.
  • Try brown rice instead of white rice. The bran and germ are not removed from brown rice like they are from white rice.
  • Choose whole-wheat pasta. Again, read the ingredient label to be sure you are getting the most whole grains. Appearances can be deceiving!
  • Add barley, quinoa, bulgur or other whole grains to soups and salads for extra benefits and flavor.
  • Eat gluten-free oatmeal and get the added heart health benefits from the soluble fiber. Quick cooking oatmeal is a good choice if you are in a hurry.

Veggies (represented by green on MyPyramid)
Eat 2 and one-half cups of veggies every day. Here’s an easy way to meet that goal: Make a salad with 1 cup of dark green leafy lettuce or spinach, add another cup of your favorite fresh veggie mix such as cucumbers, tomatoes and mushrooms, then munch on 6 baby carrots for a snack and you’ve got it.

Fruits (red section on MyPyramid)
For a naturally sweet treat try 2 cups of fruit daily. An easy grab-and-go snack that will meet this daily goal is a large apple, pear, orange or banana.

Oils (yellow section on MyPyramid)

  • Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. They are used in cooking, baking and to flavor fresh foods. Commonly used vegetable oils include canola, corn, olive, safflower, soybean and sunflower oils among others.
  • Though we depend on these fats for essential fatty acids and a primary source of vitamin E, keep in mind they also pack about 40 calories per teaspoon. Women can eat 5 teaspoons and men can have 6 teaspoons daily that come from both oil added in meal preparation as well as from processed food.
  • This is one food group where keeping portion size in mind is critical for weight management. To minimize total calories use an oil spray.
  • One caveat is to watch for coconut oil and palm kernel oil which are high in saturated fats and should be limited along with other solid fats.

Dairy (represented by the blue section on MyPyramid)

  • The dairy group is the largest contributor to the diet of calcium. Calcium is critical for healthy bones. These foods also are a good source for protein and vitamins A and D. If you’re lactose intolerant, you can still enjoy lactose-free options.
  • Mypyramid recommends 3 cups of milk or foods made from milk.
  • To minimize saturated fat eat dairy products that are fat-free or low-fat.
  • Choosing calcium-fortified foods and beverages may not include other nutrients naturally present in milk and milk products.

Protein foods (purple section of MyPyramid)

  • Protein foods include meat, poultry, fish, dry beans or peas, eggs, nuts and seeds. For the healthiest options, eat fish, nuts and seeds for their the heart-healthy oils more often, and choose lean cuts of meat and poultry.
  • Women and men should eat 5 to 6 ounce equivalents, respectively. About one ounce of meat, poultry or fish, one-quarter cup of cooked dry beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut or one-half ounce of nuts counts as 1 ounce equivalent.
  • Dry beans and peas appear in this group as well as the veggie group. If you regularly eat meat, poultry or fish, count dry beans in the vegetable group. Otherwise, count more of the beans in the protein group.
  • Eating fish, nuts and seeds more often in place of meat and poultry increases your intake of the healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils. Some polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential and cannot be made from other sources.
  • Fatty fish, such as canned albacore tuna which is not far behind salmon, are high in omega-3 fatty acids which may reduce heart disease.
  •  Nuts and seeds are good sources of essential fatty acids and vitamin E.