Do you eat enough of these nutrient-rich foods?

Lillian Yang, RDN

Remember when we said you can eat more food but not be eating more calories? 

In this article, you’ll learn more on how to do that.

We believe it’s best to avoid restrictive diets (we know that never works out), and instead, to focus on the types of food you eat. This approach is a healthy and sustainable way to support your weight loss journey, and it has the added benefits of providing more energy and helping you feel amazing!

Eat more nutrient-rich foods

Nutrient-rich, unprocessed foods:

  • Contain more nutrients (like vitamins, minerals, protein, water, and fiber).
  • Tend to be lower in calories.
  • Fill you up!

You get more bang for your buck, or in this case, feel fuller and get more nutrition from fewer calories!

A more nutritious diet is essential for long-term weight loss and also can have a positive impact on your sleep, mood, stress, and energy levels.

Let’s get familiar with these nutrient-rich foods

Nutrient-rich foods include vegetables, fruits, protein, fiber-rich carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Well… that’s starting to sound like most food isn’t it?

Sounds like I have a lot of choices!

Yes! Here’s where we can get into the finer details. These food categories, when they are not processed, have all the nutrients that are satiating and good for you without a lot of calories, added fat, and refined sugars.

Tell me about balance

A plate of grilled chicken is not an ideal meal — neither is a whole bowl of greens or two baked sweet potatoes. These examples are not ideal, not satisfying, not exciting, and out of balance.

In terms of thinking about eating healthy, we find it useful to categorize foods by type to help make it easier to understand balance and portions.

Four types of food

We like to say there are 4 main food categories, defined by what nutrients are contained in them.

Those are:

  1. Protein
  2. Non-starchy vegetables
  3. Carbohydrates
  4. Fats


Protein not only fuels your muscle tissue but also keeps up your energy. It’s an important component at each meal for feeling and staying full.

Here are some examples of foods that are protein-rich, plus their typical serving sides.

  • Seafood and meat: 3-5 ounces, or the palm of your hand. Note that beef, pork, and lamb are typically higher in fat, so it is recommended to have these only 1-2 times per week.
  • Eggs: have 1 for a light meal or snack and 2 for a full portion.
  • Greek yogurt and kefir: 6 ounces.
  • Beans, lentils, and edamame: up to 1 cup — fun fact, these are excellent sources of fiber for fullness. Together, beans and rice make a full protein!
  • Cheese: 1-2 ounces or 2 slices.
  • Tofu: ½ of a pack. 

Non-starchy vegetables 

Veggies are full of nutrients with very few calories. Include a generous serving (2 cups) at lunch and dinner for a well-rounded meal. Eating more plants has been shown to promote a healthy weight and is incredibly beneficial for overall health, as fruits and vegetables contain loads of antioxidants.

  • Salads and leafy greens: arugula, lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, beets, and kale.
  • Great in a stir-fry: broccoli, green beans, bell peppers, asparagus, cabbage, Swiss chard, bok choy.
  • Delicious when roasted: brussell sprouts, cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, spaghetti squash.


Yep, carbs can be good for you! Carbs are your brain’s preferred source of fuel, and unrefined carbs are the way to go. These include fiber-rich whole grains, fruit, and starchy vegetables.

  • Whole grains: 1 cup of oats, barley, brown rice (great for gluten free diets), quinoa, farro, wheat pasta.
  • Breads: 2 slices of whole wheat bread, half a large bagel, 1 multigrain english muffin, 2 whole grain waffles or pancakes.
  • Starchy vegetables: 1 medium sweet potato, 1 cup of air-fryer french fries, 1 cup of corn and peas, 2 cups of butternut squash.
  • Fruit: 1 cup of any fruit, 1 small piece of fruit, or a handful of dried fruit.
  • Crunchy things: whole grain crackers and pretzels, popcorn, wheat pita chips, crispbread.


Heart-healthy fats are your friend because of their ability to satiate your hunger. Most meals will already have a source of fat, like your salad dressing, cooking oil, egg yolk, cheese, salmon, and steak. Here are some examples of healthy fats and their serving sizes:

  • Avocado: up to half an avocado.
  • Butter: up to1 tablespoon.
  • Olive oil and vinaigrettes: 1-2 tablespoons.
  • Nuts and seeds: a handful of nuts and seeds, or a few teaspoons of chia and flax seeds. We love almonds as a nutritious and filling snack.
  • Nut butters and tahini: 1-2 tablespoons.

Putting it all together

Feeling hungry yet? Putting these 4 types of foods together makes for an ideal meal full of nutrition, satisfaction, and deliciousness!

More on that later!

Does your favorite meal include any of these nutrient-rich foods?

Lillian Yang, RDN

About the Author

Lillian Yang is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She completed her BS at New York University and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. For the last 8 years, she has helped people achieve their health goals by making realistic, easy, and sustainable changes in their habits and daily lives.

Scroll to see all categories

Join the Community

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Popular Articles