Fitness Resources


Vegetarian and Vegan Diets High in Ultraprocessed Foods

Eating more plants is no “eat-better” guarantee.

By Matthew Kadey, MS, RD
Jul 6, 2021

Food from vegan diets

Going from meat to vegetarian or vegan diets may result in a surprising and troubling change in the types of foods people choose to add to their diets. In a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, researchers divided more than 21,000 adults into four groups—meat eaters, pesco-vegetarians (whose diet includes fish), vegetarians and vegans—and analyzed daily food intake.

The study found that those who followed vegetarian and vegan diets appeared to consume more ultraprocessed foods (UPFs). These are packaged foods like potato chips, ice cream, and the new wave of engineered meat and dairy substitutes, like foods made from textured soy protein and plant-based drinks made from soy, almond or rice. Those who initiated a meat-free diet at a younger age were more likely to include more UPFs in their diet.

Those who believe that steering clear of meat and dairy is enough to improve health should also check out a separate investigation, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Using 13 years of data from nearly 92,000 people, this study found that those with the highest likelihood of cardiovascular-related death in that time frame were more likely to eat the most UPFs.

The takeaway here is that people pondering a plant-based lifestyle need to be educated on how to meet their nutrition needs using predominantly whole-food options.

Cooking Techniques and Tips That Deliver

Why the wrong kitchen equipment or cooking method can reduce the amount of nutrients you glean from even the healthiest meals.

By Catherine Reade, MS, RD
Sep 7, 2021

cooking techniques

Armed with a little bit of knowledge, home cooks can use simple cooking techniques and tips to boost the nutritive aspects of the food they prepare. However, this also works in reverse. Without knowledge, certain cooking techniques, pots, pans and utensils can actually diminish the nutrients you get from the meals you so painstakingly prepare.

In today’s busy world, those of us who take the time to shop for fresh ingredients and then cook well-balanced, healthy meals want to ensure we’re getting the biggest nutrient bang for our efforts. Learn these few tricks of the trade, share them with clients and bring them to your home kitchen.

Dicey Matters

“Preparing food at home provides control over what we—and our family—are eating,” says Pat Baird, MA, RD, a nutrition consultant and author in Greenwich, Connecticut. Experienced cooks use certain techniques to greatly influence the taste, texture, aroma, color, safety and nutrient value of food. This process starts with knowing the best cooking techniques and tips food preparation and storage methods.

When foods are cut, the area scored is similar to a wound: This is where the most nutrients leach out or “bleed” from! That’s why it is advisable to leave foods whole or in the largest pieces possible. It is also why you should always turn food—especially meats and poultry—with tongs or a spatula rather than a fork during cooking. This way you avoid piercing the food and releasing its nutritious juices. Whenever possible, cook fruits and vegetables with their skins intact; these skins act as a protective coating, which helps retain nutrients.

Time is also a nutrient killer. The longer foods are stored, the more the nutrients break down. Cook foods as soon after purchase as possible and eat any leftovers within a few days. Safety is also an issue here; to prevent bacterial growth, food should always be kept at below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (˚F) and cooked at above 140˚F.

Faster Foods

As a rule, rapid cooking techniques are better for retaining nutrients than slower methods. In fact, spending the least amount of time cooking is the way to go. Any type of cooking changes food in some ways. In general, nutrients are lost when food is exposed to heat, light, moisture and air (Robertson 1986). The longer food is exposed to these factors, the greater the nutrient loss. To retain the most nutrients possible, most experts recommend that you cook food thoroughly but rapidly.

The cooking techniques that typically preserve nutrients best can be ordered from quickest to slowest, as follows:

  •   pressure cooking/Instant Pot
  •   microwaving
  •   steaming
  •   stir-frying
  •   broiling/grilling
  •   sautéing
  •   poaching
  •   braising
  •   roasting
  •   baking

The nutrient retention achieved through these cooking techniques may vary according to the food type, size and shape and your own cooking technique. Note that boiling is not a preferred cooking technique because it does the most nutrient damage (Robertson 1986). This is especially true when foods are boiled in too much water, which is then poured down the drain (along with the nutrients themselves!). A practical way to recoup the nutrients that are released into boiling water is to retain the liquid after cooking and use it as stock for soups.

10 Cooking Techniques, Pros & Cons

Pressure Cooking

A pressure cooker (Instant Pot) is a pot outfitted with a locking lid. This device cooks food quickly and healthfully by creating steam under pressure, thereby increasing the cooking temperature. Foods that are the best candidates for this cooking technique are dried beans, grains and vegetables.

When using a pressure cooker, timing is essential since vegetables can become overcooked in seconds! It is also important to use precisely the amount of liquid called for in the recipe. When you are cooking grains or beans, allow enough room for them to expand; do not fill the cooker more than half full. To prevent beans and grains from foaming over, add a few teaspoons of oil (Margen et al. 1992). (Cooking in high altitudes will require more liquid and a longer cooking time.) For best results, be sure to follow the instructions that come with the pressure cooker.


Can anyone imagine life without the microwave now that we have become accustomed to its speed and convenience? Microwaving uses electromagnetic radiation to heat foods (McGee 1984). Water in the food is the predominant molecule affected in this process; the water moves back and forth rapidly, creating energy that causes the temperature of the food to rise quickly.

Microwaving is an undeniably fast cooking technique that uses a minimum amount of liquid, producing great-tasting vegetables and fish. However, this method is less successful for cooking meat and poultry. Quick heating can cause greater fluid loss and result in a drier texture. Also, meats and poultry can’t be browned as they can with other cooking techniques, since the food’s surface never gets any warmer than the interior; this affects both the flavor and the appearance of foods (McGee 1984).

Little is known about the long-term safety of microwaving food. Concerns have been expressed about microwaves altering the protein chemistry of foods in ways that may be harmful (Weil 1997). For this reason, some health experts recommend using the microwave only for rapid heating and defrosting, not for longer cooking.

One major health concern tied to microwaving involves the use of plastic containers or plastic wrap—even those types labeled “microwave safe.” It appears that chemicals from the plastics (known as “plasticizers”) can migrate into food and may eventually interfere with the body’s hormonal balance, contributing to birth defects, reproductive abnormalities, early puberty in girls and some hormone-dependent cancers (Walsh 1998; Welland 2000). Heat and light accelerate this potentially detrimental process (Welland 2000). The hotter the food is, the greater the risk of these plastic particles melting into the food. To avoid this danger, use glass or ceramic containers like Pyrexor Corningware, which do not react with food. To keep food moist, cover it with a glass or ceramic lid, paper towel or wax paper.


This healthful cooking technique retains most nutrients, since the food is not immersed in water. Almost any food that can be boiled can be steamed, especially any type of vegetable. Invest in a metal steaming basket or bamboo steamer or improvise using a metal colander in a pot topped with a tight-fitting lid. A large steamer pot is ideal since it provides ample space for the steam to circulate, cooking the food most efficiently. Water will boil away as the food is cooking, so be sure to start off with enough liquid in the pot.

See also: Steamed Lemony Tilapia Recipe


Traditionally an Asian cooking technique, stir-frying rapidly cooks small, uniform-sized pieces of foods, most commonly mixed vegetables. Thinly sliced pieces of beef, chicken or shrimp can also be stir-fried in a wok or large, nonstick frying pan. Stir-fried meals are healthful because foods cook rapidly at relatively high temperatures. Very little oil is needed with this cooking technique, just enough to form a thin film on the pan (Hensrud et al. 1998). If desired, broth, wine or nonstick cooking spray can be used instead of oil. (Just be sure to add more liquid to the pan as it evaporates.) Gradually add the oil or broth to the pan, heating until hot but not smoking. Then toss in the food and stir constantly until meats are thoroughly cooked and vegetables are just tender and crisp (Margen et al. 1992).

Broiling and Grilling

Both of these cooking techniques expose food to direct heat, leaving food crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside with a characteristically intense flavor. These methods work well with meat, seafood, poultry, vegetables and even fruit! For best results, meat should be cut in chunks 1 to 2 inches thick; however, leaner meats, such as chicken or fish fillets, can toughen and overcook under such high heat. Depending on the food’s thickness and the heat intensity radiated by the broiler or grill, position meat about 4 inches from the heat source; place chicken and fish about 6 to 8 inches away (McGee 1984; Margen et al. 1992). For a great marinade recipe that can be used on most grilled or broiled foods, see the “Marvelous Marinade” sidebar.

Sturdy vegetables can also be broiled or grilled. However, this works best if the veggies are in fairly large pieces (like whole baby carrots or mushrooms), thickly sliced (like red potato wedges) or cut in half (like eggplant). You can either marinate the veggies and cover them with aluminum foil or brush them lightly with oil and put them in a wire basket, which can be easily turned during cooking. Place the vegetables about 4 inches from the heat source and, as the veggies cook, baste them once or twice with broth, marinade or juice. When they begin to brown, turn them over to lightly brown the other side (Margen et al. 1992).

When broiling, use a pan with a rack to allow the fat drippings to slip through; this will lower the fat content of meat and prevent flare-ups caused by dripping fat. Although grilling causes fat to drip away, flare-ups when barbequing can result in harmful substances forming on meat. The smoke coats the barbequed food with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which may promote cancer (Golub 2001). The high temperatures of grilling (and broiling) can also cause carcinogenic substances called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) to form on the surface of well-done and charred meat (Golub 2001). For tips on how to grill more safely, see “Healthy Barbequing Tips.”


Sometimes called pan-frying, sautéing rapidly cooks small, uniform-sized pieces of food in little or no oil. The best candidates for this cooking technique are vegetables and thin cuts of meats or seafood, such as pork medallions, boneless chicken breasts and scallops. Traditionally, most cooks have used butter or oil to sauté, but very little fat is needed if a nonstick pan is used (Margen et al. 1992). Depending on the recipe, broth, wine or water can replace all or some of the oil. (Keep in mind, however, that these liquids do not heat as quickly as oil and may slightly alter the cooking process and flavor.) I personally prefer to sauté garlic lightly in olive oil, then add a cut-up vegetable like broccoli (either raw or blanched) for a quick side dish; for an entrée, I add some broth and pasta.

The key to this cooking technique is to use a hot skillet, heating the liquid until hot—but not smoking—so that the food cooks quickly. Once the liquid is hot enough, add the food immediately and stir. To avoid releasing juices (and nutrients), turn meats with tongs or a spatula instead of a fork. If using broth or water in place of oil, replenish the liquid as it evaporates. The pan should be large enough to avoid crowding, or the food will actually steam rather than sauté!


This stove-top cooking technique gently simmers foods in water (or other liquids, such as broth, vinegar, wine, fruit juice or vegetable juice, to add more flavor). Meats, poultry, fish, seafood, vegetables and fruit can be poached. The nutritional advantage to poaching is that the liquid becomes part of the dish itself but contains little or no added fat. The liquid can be thickened by adding flour or cornstarch. To use this cooking technique most efficiently, choose a pan that best suits the size and shape of the food, so a minimum amount of liquid is used; this also minimizes cooking time (Hensrud et al. 1998).


Braising involves slow cooking in a small amount of liquid inside an open or covered pan. Suitable for meat, poultry or vegetables, braising can be done either on the stove top or in the oven (Hensrud et al. 1998). The braising liquid can be water, broth, juice or wine. This is one of the best cooking techniques to tenderize a tough piece of meat, since slow cooking in liquid softens the connective tissue. (Pot roast is a familiar example of a braised meat.) Be aware that fatty, tender cuts of meat will become tough with this cooking method (Margen et al. 1992).


Like baking, roasting uses the dry heat of an oven to slowly cook food such as meat roasts, whole chicken or turkey. However, roasting is typically done at higher temperatures than baking. Almost any kind of fatty or lean meat can be roasted, although this cooking technique works best for larger cuts. Sturdy vegetables can also be roasted to intensify their flavors.

While vegetables can be roasted on a baking sheet, it is best to roast meats in a broiler or in a roasting pan with a rack so that fat can drip away from the meat during the cooking process. For easy cleaning, coat the rack with cooking spray and line the pan bottom with foil. Cooking time will vary with this method, depending on the size, shape and cut of meat. A good meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion is essential to judge when the meat is cooked thoroughly (Margen et al. 1992).


When we think about this cooking technique, the first foods that usually come to mind are baked goods, such as breads, cookies and cakes. But this dry-heat cooking technique, which cooks food by surrounding it with heated air in an oven, can be used to cook uniform-sized pieces of veggies, fruit, seafood, poultry or lean meat. Baking works well when little or no fat is added to a dish (Margen et al. 1992). Use a shallow baking dish, and cover it with foil or a lid to keep foods moist.

See also: Eating With the Seasons

Cooking Techniques & Tips: Pots, Pans, Surfaces

Like the food you prepare, a quality set of pots and pans is an essential ingredient in any successful recipe. There are two basic qualities to look for in cookware. First, it should be made from a material that conducts heat evenly and efficiently to prevent “hot spots” from developing and food from burning. Second, the pot’s surface should not be chemically reactive, which would allow atoms from the metal to leach into the food, potentially affecting the food’s flavor or color; examples of cookware with this drawback include cast-iron and aluminum pans (Garrison & Somer 1995).


The advantages of aluminum are that it is inexpensive, a very good heat conductor (second only to copper) and lightweight, making it easy to handle (McGee 1984). Unfortunately, food molecules can easily penetrate its surface, particularly acidic ones like tomatoes, alkaline ones like milk and sulfur-rich foods like eggs. These molecules can cause light-colored foods to become noticeably discolored. The sulfur odor that is emitted when cooking foods such as cruciferous vegetables (e.g., cauliflower and broccoli) is also intensified in aluminum pots and pans.

In the 1970s, aluminum cookware was linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease when Canadian scientists observed a higher than normal level of aluminum in the brain of patients with this disease (Schepers 2000). However, other researchers have been unable to duplicate these results (Schepers 2000). Aluminum cookware and utensils contribute about 2.5 milligrams (mg) of aluminum to the average American’s daily diet. This is small in comparison to food additives and leavening agents, which add 25 to 50 mg of aluminum daily; buffered aspirin, which adds 125 to 725 mg; or common antacids, which add 850 to 5,000 mg. If concerned, avoid aluminum cookware, but be aware that far greater sources of aluminum are regularly consumed without much fanfare (Schepers 2000).


Considered the best heat conductor, copper cooks food quickly and evenly. Unfortunately, it is highly reactive with anything it encounters, including food. To prevent copper from leaching into food, the copper must be coated with stainless steel (Schepers 2000). (Older cookware was often lined with tin, which wore off easily, revealing the copper below.) While copper is an essential mineral, too high an intake can be toxic. Never serve or cook food in unlined copper pots or pans or in utensils whose lining is worn even minimally. Pure copper pots and pans are truly for decorative use only!


Don’t tell Grandma that her old cast-iron skillet is a relatively poor conductor of heat. Chances are, her prized pan is so thick and heavy it will absorb and hold heat well, regardless of its poor conductivity! This makes cast-iron a prize of many cooking techniques. Iron cookware needs to be regularly oiled and gently cleaned to avoid corrosion. This cookware can also leach iron into food, which can be a good or bad thing. Increased iron intake can benefit children, adolescents and menstruating women, who typically need to boost their levels of this nutrient. But older people and those at risk for hemochromatosis (iron overload disorder) should avoid additional dietary iron intake (Schepers 2000).

See also: One Cast-Iron Pan, 5 Recipes from Clean Eating

Non-Stick Cookware

This cookware is created by placing a nonstick coating (like Teflon®) over metal. The obvious advantage is that this minimizes the amount of fat needed to prevent food from sticking to the pan. However, the coating itself can chip. Although the material is nontoxic and will pass through the body without being absorbed (Schepers 2000), chipping is obviously undesirable and can cause food to be unevenly cooked. To protect the coating, avoid using metal utensils with nonstick cookware. If you have a pot or pan with a significant amount of chipping or peeling, throw the piece away since the damage affects cooking performance.

Stainless Steel

Although stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat, it is chemically the least reactive of the metals. Stainless steel cookware tends to be expensive, so some manufacturers skimp on the thickness of the metal. A pan that is too thin will create hot spots, causing uneven cooking. The transfer of heat is vastly improved if the pan has a copper or aluminum inner core or if the bottom of the pan is coated with copper (McGee 1984). Despite their inferior heat conduction, stainless steel pots and pans—particularly the hybrids that are “clad” or combined with other metals—are probably the best forms of cookware available today.


Ceramic pots and pans are poor conductors of heat, especially when used on a stove top, so they don’t distribute heat evenly over a surface. Ceramic material is a better choice when used as an oven casserole dish or a Crockpot, because the heating process is slower and more diffuse. Ceramic pots and pans do retain heat well, making them good candidates for keeping food hot at your next dinner party! However, a word of caution is in order: Do not cook or store food in that beautiful ceramic pottery you purchased on your last trip to Mexico, South America or the Mediterranean! Many of the ceramic items produced in other countries are not fired at high enough temperatures and, as a result, can leach lead from the ceramic glaze into food. Even in small amounts, lead is extremely toxic and can cause brain or nerve damage and impair the immune system (Schepers 2000).

Updated September 8, 2021

Marvelous Marinade

Marinades can not only add great flavor to food but also tenderize tougher cuts of meat. From a safety perspective, marinades may help reduce some of the carcinogens that can form on food when it is grilled or broiled (American Institute for Cancer Research 2001).

The following marinade works well when grilling or broiling vegetables, tofu or meats. Slice veggies—such as eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, bell peppers, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and/or red onion—into thick rounds or, if small, leave whole. Cut lean meat, skinless chicken, seafood or firm tofu into 2-inch cubes.

1/2 cup rice or white-wine vinegar

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 small bay leaf

2 sprigs fresh (or 1/2 teaspoon [tsp] dried) rosemary, thyme or oregano

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

In bowl, combine marinade ingredients until well blended. (Use a nonmetal container to prevent off flavors from forming.) You’ll need about a 1/2 cup of marinade for each pound of food. Add the food and turn several times until all sides are coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, occasionally turning food so that marinade is distributed evenly. Drain and discard marinade. Thread skewers for meat and vegetables separately or place in aluminum foil or wire baskets (cooking times will vary, depending on the food). Place on grill and turn often with tongs or spatula to prevent charring. If you want marinade for basting, make a second bowl, to prevent spreading bacteria.

Source: American Institute for Cancer Research 2001.

Healthy Barbequing Tips

The American Institute of Cancer Research offers these tips for healthier grilling:

  • Barbeque plant food instead of meats. Red and white meats pose the greatest carcinogenic risk when grilled, so substitute vegetables, veggie burgers, soy dogs, soy sausages or other soy “meat.” Go wild and grill a fruit for a sweet and healthful treat.
  • If you do choose to grill meat, marinate it first. Marinades add flavor to food, can be used to tenderize meat and may even reduce the formation of carcinogenic substances called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) by as much as 92 to 99 percent (American Institute on Cancer 2001)! (See “Marvelous Marinade”on page 25 for more details.)
  • Choose lean meats and trim away excess fat to avoid flare-ups when grilling. Remove the skin from poultry, and avoid high-fat meats, such as ribs or sausages.
  • Use small pieces of meats so they cook more quickly, requiring less time on the grill. Skewered kabobs are a great way to go.
  • Turn foods frequently, and avoid letting juices drip into the flames or coals, as this can cause smoke and flare-ups. To turn foods, use tongs or a spatula instead of a meat fork, which pierces the foods, releasing nutrient-packed juices. You can also reduce excessive smoke by covering the grill with punctured aluminum foil; not placing meats directly over coals; and keeping a water spray bottle handy to control flare-ups.
  • Precook meats before putting them on the grill. Partially cook red and white meats on the stove top or in the microwave, then grill to complete cooking and add flavor. This reduces the amount of exposure to carcinogens.
  • Remove any charred or burnt pieces of food before serving.
  • Avoid inhaling barbeque smoke or using charcoal lighter fluid; both put additional residue of toxic chemicals in food (Weil 1998).


American Institute for Cancer Research. 2001. The Facts About Grilling (brochure). Washington, DC:
Garrison, R., & Somer, E. 1995. The Nutrition Desk Reference. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing.
Golub, C. 2001. Sizzle safely this summer: Tips for great grilling. Environmental Nutrition (June).
Hensrud, D., et al. 1998. The Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook. San Francisco: Time-Life Books.
Margen, S., et al. 1992. The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition. New York: Random House.
McGee, H. 1984. On Food and Cooking. The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York: Collier Books.
Robertson, L. 1986. The New Laurel’s Kitchen. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.
Schepers, A. 2000. Concerned about your cookware? Environmental Nutrition (May).
Walsh, J. 1998. How your hormones are affected by what you eat.—The debate rages. Environmental Nutrition (February).
Weil, A. 1997. Dangers of microwaves? www.drweil
.com; published April 18, 1997; retrieved December 8, 2001.
Weil, A. 1998. 3 tips for a healthier summer. Self Healing (June).
Welland, D. 2000. Should you ban plastic products from your kitchen? Environmental Nutrition (June).

Catherine Reade, MS, RD

Catherine Reader, MS, RD, created and runs HealthFull Living, a nutrition consulting company in Littleton, Colorado, that specializes in nutrition for sports performance, weight management and wellness. She is also an ACE-certified group fitness instructor who has been designing and teaching personalized nutrition and fitness programs for more than 10 years. She can be reached at

“Best If Used By” Label Confusion

For many consumers, date labels are still a head scratcher.

Recipe for Health: Hummus Chicken Wraps

Niacin has some delicious benefits.

Recipe for Health: Hummus Chicken Wraps

Hummus chicken wrap , Niacin has some delicious benefits.

Eating Breakfast May Protect Against Heart Problems – A review study suggests we should rise and dine for heart health.


Aug 6, 2020

Breakfast for health

The old adage “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” seems to have some merit. Adults who skip breakfast are 22% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and 25% more likely to suffer premature mortality than those who typically eat a morning meal. That’s according to a meta-analysis, published in Clinical Nutrition, that examined seven studies (conducted through June 2019) involving a total of 221,732 participants.

Going hungry in the morning may make it harder for people to meet all their nutrient needs for good health or may set them up for less-healthy eating habits later in the day. A growling stomach can be a recipe for making poor food choices.

Of note, this study did not address the types of breakfast foods that provide the biggest longevity benefits. Certainly, rolling out of bed and spooning up a bowl of sugary cereal with a side of bacon would not bring about the same heart-health perks as more wholesome options like oatmeal, fruit and yogurt.

Skipping Breakfast Creates Nutrition Gaps

Aug 3, 2021

Skipping breakfast and nutrition gaps

If you want to stay on top of your daily nutrition, consider making your morning meal a priority. Skipping breakfast could mean missing out on key nutrients, creating a nutrition gap for the remainder of the day, according to a study published in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society.

The study was completed with Ohio State College of Medicine graduate students and supported by a regional dairy association. The research team used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which collects health information every year on nationally representative samples of 5,000 people through interviews, laboratory tests and physical exams.

This study’s sample included 30,889 adults age 19 and older who participated in the survey from 2005 to 2016. Participants identified their foods as a meal or a snack, and reported the times they ate, which researchers used to determine whether a participant ate breakfast or skipped it. In all, 15.2% of participants—4,924 adults—reported skipping breakfast.

Researchers translated this data into nutrient estimates using the federal Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies and daily dietary guidelines. They then compared those estimates with recommended nutrient intakes from the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies.

According to the key recommendations they measured, people who skipped breakfast consumed fewer vitamins and minerals than those who had eaten breakfast, with the most differences found for folate, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and D.

Further, participants who skipped breakfast had a poorer nutrient profile for the rest of the day, with higher intakes of added sugars, carbohydrates and total fat due to increased snacking.

“People who ate breakfast ate more total calories than people who didn’t eat breakfast,” noted the study’s senior author, Christopher Taylor. “But the lunch, dinner and snacks were much larger for people who skipped breakfast, and tended to be of a lower diet quality.”

While the study only reviewed a single day in each participant’s life, the analysis still showed that missing nutrients in breakfast foods—like calcium in milk, vitamin C in fruit, and fiber, vitamins and minerals in cereals—reduced nutrient intake for the rest of the day.

“What we’re seeing is that if you don’t eat the foods that are commonly consumed at breakfast, you have a tendency not to eat them the rest of the day,” explained Christopher. “So those common breakfast nutrients become a nutritional gap.”

The data suggests a morning meal may be helpful in avoiding excessive snacking, and improving overall nutrition.



What is MyPlate?

Start Simple with MyPlate

The benefits of healthy eating add up over time, bite by bite. Small changes matter. Start Simple with MyPlate.

A healthy eating routine is important at every stage of life and can have positive effects that add up over time. It’s important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy and fortified soy alternatives. When deciding what to eat or drink, choose options that are full of nutrients. Make every bite count.

MyPlate Messages

Click on a message below to learn more about the food groups.

MyPlate logo with labels


The benefits of healthy eating add up over time, bite by bite. Small changes matter. Start Simple with MyPlate.

Fruit food group icon


Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: focus on whole fruits

More information

Vegetables food group icon


Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: vary your veggies

More information

Grains food group icon


Make half your grains whole grains

More information

Protein Foods food group icon

Protein Foods

Vary your protein routine

More information

Dairy food group icon


Move to low-fat or fat-free dairy milk or yogurt (or lactose-free dairy or fortified soy versions)

More information

Make every bite count

  • Learn how much you need from each food group. Get a personalized MyPlate Plan that’s right for you, based on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level.
  • Take a look at your current eating routine. Pick one or two ways that you can switch to choices today that are rich in nutrition.
  • A healthy eating routine can help boost your health today and in the years to come. Think about how your food choices come together over the course of your day or week to help you create a healthy eating routine.
  • It’s important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy and fortified soy alternatives. Choose options for meals, beverages, and snacks that have limited added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.

DGA logo is based on the
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025

Learn more

Start Simple app on phone and watch

Start Simple with MyPlate App

Build healthy eating habits one goal at a time! Download the Start Simple with MyPlate app today.

Learn more

Pig’s Blood for Protein? Pig’s blood is being turned into protein powder.

May 10, 2021

Protein powder from pig's blood

First we had burgers made from cell-cultured meat, and now there’s protein powder gleaned from swine blood. As reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, food scientists have devised a way to produce a flavorless protein powder from pig’s blood, a byproduct of pork meat production, using enzymes from papaya fruit and a soil bacterium. At present, 5,000 metric tonnes of pure protein powder can be extracted from 60,000 tonnes of blood.

The hope is that this could be used in the food supply to help meet the protein needs of a growing global population and could perhaps be an easy way to help seniors take in more protein to stave off frailty. But as we have witnessed with cricket protein, we are probably a long way off from widespread acceptance of cereal spiked with pig’s blood protein, so, for the time being, most pork eaters will likely prefer their protein to come from chops.

See also: The REAL Scoop on Protein Powders

Intermittent Fasting – Discover strategies for incorporating this eating plan into your life.

Intermittent fasting

While it has long been used in ancient traditions and major religions, intermittent fasting (IF) is enjoying new popularity among people trying to lose weight.  Sometimes called “feast and fast,” IF is an eating pattern with periods of little to no energy intake interspersed with periods of normal energy intake, adhered to on a repeating basis.

Though scientific evidence is still forming, the latest studies show that IF shows promising benefits for the body and brain. It’s important to note, though, that the method involves more than just limiting calories on a regular schedule; it must be personally tailored to be maximally effective.

Interested in exploring IF? Teri Mosey, PhD, a holistic nutrition consultant with 25 years in the health and fitness industry, shares insights into the philosophy and implementation of this approach.

Why Intermittent Fasting?

IF has drawn the attention of the weight loss industry because simply restricting calories continues to show a poor success rate, a high incidence of weight regain and negative biological consequences (Ganesan, Habboush & Sultan 2018).

That’s because there’s more to weight than an energy-calorie equation. Research shows that meal selection, metabolic processes, circadian rhythms, emotional state and sleep patterns contribute to long-term weight management (Eichelmann et al. 2016; Wang et al. 2017).

The IF method includes food selection, timing and frequency manipulation and may involve caloric restriction. These variables lead to changes in eating and sleeping patterns, resulting in positive alterations to metabolic rhythms (Aksungar et al. 2017). The altered biorhythms, in turn, shift inflammatory biomarkers, hormone secretions, microbiome health, cognitive function and metabolic pathways—all of which can potentially extend life span and lengthen health span (Carlson et al. 2007; Mattson, Longo & Harvie 2017).

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

If, after consulting with a nutrition professional, you decide to try IF, consider these suggestions:

Choose an IF regimen carefully. Select an approach that you can sustain. Consistency is crucial to reaping benefits.

Change the timing gradually. Rather than shift the timing of your food intake all at once, trim a little time off your eating window, about 30 minutes, each day.

Omit late-night eating. This will help align IF with circadian rhythms.

Time meals to support digestion. Consider going 5 hours between meals or snacks to support the body’s migrating motor complex and to create metabolic flexibility.

Expect some discomfort. There will be a time of imbalance as hunger sensations and hormones adapt. Be prepared to feel hungry, moody and preoccupied with food when first starting.

Be committed. Practice for at least 8 weeks to begin reaping IF’s benefits as part of a preexisting healthy lifestyle.

Is Intermittent Fasting a Good Fit?

Use the following information as a starting point to decide whether intermittent fasting (IF) may work for you. You can also consult with a registered dietitian to get personalized guidance. (See to find one.)

Positive indicators. IF may be a good fit for you if you want to

  • improve body awareness and hunger/fullness cues;
  • explore life without strong food attachments;
  • work toward the potential health benefits of the practice; and
  • enhance an existing health-supportive lifestyle.

Contraindications. IF is not meant for those who are

  • younger than 23 or older than 75;
  • pregnant or breastfeeding;
  • diagnosed with advanced type 1 diabetes;
  • struggling with a chronic sleep disorder;
  • challenged with an eating disorder or trying to counteract poor eating habits; or
  • predisposed to taking practices, including healthy ones, to an unhealthy extreme.


Aksungar, F.B., et al. 2017. Comparison of intermittent fasting versus caloric restriction in obese subjects: A two year follow-up. The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, 21 (6), 681–85.

Carlson, O., et al. 2007. Impact of reduced meal frequency without caloric restriction on glucose regulation in healthy, normal weight middle-aged men and women. Metabolism, 56 (12), 1729–34.

Eichelmann, F., et al. 2016. Effect of plant-based diets on obesity-related inflammatory profiles: A systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention trials. Obesity Reviews, 17 (11), 1067–79.

Ganesan, K., Habboush, Y., & Sultan, S. 2018. Intermittent fasting: The choice for a healthier lifestyle. Cureus, 10 (7), e2947.

Mattson, M.P., Longo, V.D., & Harvie, M. 2017. Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Aging Research Reviews, 39, 46–58.

Wang, Y., et al. 2017. The intestinal microbiota regulates body composition through NFIL3 and the circadian clock. Science, 357 (6354), 912–16.