What Does it Mean to Eat Nutrient Dense Foods?

Nutrient dense. Before I became a dietitian I always found this to be a confusing term. What are nutrient dense foods? Why are these important in a healthy diet?

Simply put, what determines the nutrient density of food is the amount of nutrients you get for the amount of calories. A nutrient dense food has lots of nutrients for the little calories. You want to look for foods that are rich in vitamins, mineral, complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats. Choosing nutrient dense foods can help you pack in the most nutrition while staying with your calorie limits.

Let’s get a bit more specific on what constitutes a nutrient dense food.

Vegetables & Fruits

These the power houses of nutrient dense foods. Vegetables and fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants and tend to be very low in calories.


Lean meat cuts, seafood and poultry are excellent sources of protein, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. Protein is an important nutrient for muscles and skin and also can help you feel satisfied and full. Keeping your meats lean helps to keep the calories low.

Whole Grains

Whole grains like fruits and vegetables provide a variety vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and are an excellent source of fiber. Choose products in which “whole” is one of the first words in ingredient list to get the most nutrition from your grains.

Nuts & Beans

These are great protein alternatives that are brimming with nutrition. Nuts are a great source for healthy fats and beans are a wealth of fiber.


Low-fat dairy products provide calcium and Vitamin D for strong and healthy bones. They also a great source of potassium and protein as well.


Get started today and try this delicious fresh fruit oatmeal recipe that uses stevia to keep calories low in this nutrient dense breakfast.


Carolyn ReynaudCarolyn Reynaud, MS, RD, LD is a licensed registered dietitian. She received her BS in nutrition from Michigan State University and her Masters and Certificate in Public Health from Georgia State University. She has experience working in several avenues of health care including corporate wellness, clinical disease management, research, and health promotion. She has been working as a health coach specialist for close to 6 years, where she counsels patients on preventative healthcare and helps them meet their health goals. Follow her on Twitter @ReynaudCari.

Lemon Chicken with Asparagus

Makes 4 Servings


12 ounces skinless boneless chicken cutlets, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine or dry Sherry
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup fresh asparagus in 1-inch pieces, about 6 ounces before trimming

1/2 cup fat-free reduced sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry Sherry
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Stevia In The Raw® Bakers Bag
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch


Place the chicken in a mixing bowl. Add the sesame oil, wine, soy sauce, salt and pepper and mix to coat the chicken. Set the chicken aside to marinate while measuring and combining the sauce ingredients.

In a small bowl, combine the broth, lemon zest and juice, wine, soy sauce, garlic, Stevia In The Raw®, pepper flakes, and sesame oil. Set the sauce aside.

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with 2 teaspoons cold water, leaving the spoon in the bowl, and set aside.

Coat the bottom of a wok heavily with cooking spray, including 5 inches up the sides. Set the wok over the highest heat possible. When a drop of water flicked into the wok dances, add asparagus and stir-fry until it is bright green, 1 minute. Turn the asparagus out onto a plate.

Add the marinated chicken and stir-fry until it is lightly browned but still pink in the center, 3 minutes. Pour in the sauce. Keeping the chicken moving with the wok paddle, cook for 3 minutes, or until the pieces are white in the center. Stir the cornstarch mixture and add it to the work. Return the asparagus to the wok, and stir-fry until the sauce thickens enough to coat the chicken and asparagus, 1 minute.

Immediately divide the stir-fry among 4 plates and serve.

Nutritional Information

Calories 120
Total Fat 3.5g
Carbohydrate 4g
Protein 16g
Dietary Fiber <1g
Sodium 920mg


Recipe courtesy of InTheRaw.com.