These days modern life can bring with it a wide range of dietary preferences and restrictions. Many people are on restricted diets due to health conditions, religious reasons, intolerances, and allergies. As a registered dietitian, I believe it’s important to know the different ways to get the key nutrients your body needs on any diet. What should you consider key nutrients? Well, that really depends person to person. However, overall, iron and calcium should be staples. In the winter time, vitamin C is really important too. And for pregnant women, getting some folate in your diet is a must.
Let’s talk Calcium for a moment. For example, if you are lactose intolerant, it may be harder for you to get nutrients through milk and cheese. Both are calcium rich foods and are generally good sources, but if you have an intolerance, you’ll need to get calcium elsewhere. Some other sources of calcium could include broccoli or poppy seeds.
When it comes to restricted diets, supplements can play an important role. As a dietitian, I always suggest checking with your doctors first, especially for people who have severe deficiencies where food itself may not be enough, which can be the case with iron deficiencies, for example. The same could be the case for someone with a vitamin B12 deficiency. Sometimes people who’ve been vegan for years tend to be B12 deficient, because it’s commonly found in meats.
Whenever you eliminate whole food groups, you have to be cognizant about what vitamins and minerals you’re getting. It may take more work and planning, but it can be done. Often when we think of eating healthy, people think that means removing fats and carbs from our diets. But the truth is several are healthy and a great source of nutrients. Fruit and yogurt have great nutrients and they are carbs. Whereas avocado and olive oil are nutrient rich fats. Also, calories don’t really matter when it comes to vitamins and nutrients. For example, one tablespoon of peanut butter is about 100 calories and it has a ton of nutrients. Just because a food is higher in calories doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t full of needed minerals and nutrients.
Personally, I follow a Kosher diet. Sometimes I also loosely follow parts of a Mediterranean diet by limiting red meat during the week. I intentionally ensure I’m getting the vitamins and minerals needed by including healthy fats through poultry and fish during the week. One of my go-to tips for finding foods rich in key vitamins and nutrients is to keep things colorful. A good indicator of whole foods rich in minerals is that they are also rich in color. For example, sweet potatoes rich in orange color are high in vitamin A, and tomatoes are rich in lycopene due to their red color.