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Three steps to help you select nourishing ingredients

By Katya Baxter, Nutritionist,

In my previous post, we touched on several ideas about how to create a substantial plate by using nutrient-rich ingredients, while cutting down on portion size. You may be saying to yourself, “in theory, this sounds wonderful but which ingredients am I supposed to use?”

With all the nutritional information constantly changing, it is true that it is becoming increasingly difficult to pin down foods that are truly good for our health – with no gotchas later.

Is there a simple way to sort through the data and find the most nourishing foods? Absolutely. Let’s take a closer look at the following three steps.

Step 1

Although there are plenty of packaged and processed foods out there proclaiming their nutritional goodness, it is undeniable that minimally processed, whole, and chemically untreated (organic)  foods contain the most nutrients. When choosing such foods we, by default, move one step closer to creating a nourishing dish. The diagram below provides a good idea of how to determine which foods are “cleaner” or less processed.

Source: Walters, Terry. Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source; Sterling Publishing Company, 2007.

Step 2

We have all heard the saying “Less is more”. It is especially true when we start replacing empty calories and excess with nutrient rich foods and smaller portions.

For example:


Saturated fats: red meat, butter, cream

Refined carbohydrates: white flour, refined grains, white pasta, white sugar

Plate size: smaller plates create the appearance of larger portions


Plant protein: legumes, nuts, seeds

Fiber: 100% whole grains such as wheat kernels, spelt, rye and flours made from these; brown rice, quinoa, and pastas made from them

‘Good’ fats: fish, unrefined plant oils such as extra virgin olive, sunflower, flax

Natural sweeteners such as stevia, raw honey and pure maple syrup

Colors and flavors that come from fruits and vegetables

Textures that ALL these foods are rich in!

Step 3
Finally, to build a substantial dish with fewer calories we need to emphasize foods low in calorie density. For example, a 5 lb watermelon will have lower calorie density than 5 lbs of cheese due to the difference in the amount of water, fiber, protein, fat and carbohydrates contained in each item. Naturally, foods with high water or fiber content are lower in calorie density and therefore will provide a more substantial ‘feel’ to a plate and a sense of satiety without too many additional calories. Check out the table below for specific examples.


Vegetables and Fruits


Eggs, boiled

Pasta, cooked

Fish and seafood

















Apple vs. Cheeseburger

Source: Rolls B.J., Barnett R.A. Volumetrics. New York: Harper Collins, 2000
Rolls B.J. The Volumetrics Eating Plan. Harper Collins, 2005

I trust these suggestions will help give you a basic foundation about how to wade through the enormous amounts of nutritional information and to choose the right ingredients! To start, ask your purchasing to review your current inventory and have your suppliers provide you with alternatives that are ‘cleaner’ and richer in nutrients.

And in the meantime, feel free to submit your questions and comments to me online! See you next time.

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