Do you ever stop and question yourself about the nutrients actually present in your meals? Do you ever worry that you may be accidentally deficient in a nutrient or two? Researchers have reported and Dietitians continue to educate on the need for a variety of fruits and vegetables in our daily diet. The best indicator of a well balanced diet can actually be based on color. If your plate/bowl is full of color from fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, then you’re on the right track. North Dakota State University has created a cute and easy reference explaining these basic dietary needs in their ‘What Color is Your Food‘ pamphlet.
So, how easy is it to actually fulfill our dietary needs in one meal? Well, it’s a lot easier than you may think. Here’s an example: Tonight’s dinner in our home consisted of 1) A fresh salad, 2) Whole-grain penne pasta with tomato and basil sauce, 3) Sautéed crimini mushrooms and zucchini, and 4) Steamed peas.
The salad was the big ticket, as it included fresh romaine, avocado (Vitamins B 1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, E and K), green pepper (Vitamins B6 and C), tomato (Vitamins A and C), carrots (Vitamins A and K), red onion, fresh lemon, extra virgin olive oil – first cold press (Vitamins E and K), and red wine vinegar. AND THINK, this is just a list of the Vitamins in these fruits and vegetables. They also contain a variety of minerals and fiber too.
Our sautéed and steamed vegetables were also a huge vitamin contributor with mushrooms providing Vitamins B2, B3, and D, zucchini providing Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and B6, and finally the peas which provide Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 and K. Let’s not forget these items also provide pantothenic acid, riboflavin, niacin, selenium, ergothioneine, copper, potassium, Beta-glucans, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, carotens, folate, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Can you say WOW?!? All of these nutrients in a simple and easy to make dish that will compliment most meals. AND… since I cooked these in a cast iron skillet, they also have additional iron ready for our absorption. 🙂
(Sources: Vitamins, Mushrooms, Zucchini, Peas)
Finally, there is the whole grain pasta which is a source of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates as well as many essential nutrients (iron, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, folate, etc.).
Now, what were we missing? Well, since we had already satisfied our protein and B12 needs in an earlier meal I opted not to include a high protein source. Our frequent snacks throughout the day included a lot of fresh fruit, so I wasn’t worried about adding more fruit to our dinner. We obtained our daily need for Vitamin D with some time outside and two glasses of fortified OJ (which also provided more calcium). So, as you can see, with one simple meal, we essentially covered the majority of our dietary nutrient needs with little thought. We simply aimed for COLOR on the plate and have covered the basics. If you apply this method to all of your meals, continuously incorporating different (fresh/steamed) fruits and vegetables, you should have no problem acquiring your essential nutrients for optimal health. (Note, processed juices and snack foods don’t count as *fresh*. If it’s in a can, it’s likely to be deficient in these vitamins and minerals.)
Dr. Decuypere, a chiropractor and health professional in Clearwater, FL, has summarized the basic essential vitamins that we need in our diet in her Vitamin Chart. I have found this chart to be a wonderful tool and quick reference. You may want a copy of it in your kitchen. 😉
I hope this post inspires each of you to incorporate as many colorful fruits, vegetables and legumes into your daily meals as possible. Please know that the creation of our weekly boxes includes a great deal of thought and planning with COLOR and VARIETY at the top of the list.
Much love to all of you,