Michelle Rupp: Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of AFMC TV. We’re glad you joined us. Today, we have J.J. Mayo joining us today to talk about nutrient-dense food. And J.J., probably the first question is what is nutrient-dense food?

J.J. Mayo: Well, thanks Michelle for having me. Yeah, nutrient-dense food, it’s one of those nutrition concepts that doesn’t get talked about a lot. Basically, when you’re looking at nutrient-dense food, that’s the food that when you look at the calories and you compare the nutrients, the nutrition that’s in that food, there are more nutrients relative to the calories. There’s another concept related to what we call energy-dense foods. Those are just the opposite. Those are foods where it’s got a bunch of calories, but there’s no nutrition involved. If you were to compare drinking a glass of milk versus drinking a regular soda, it’s obvious that the milk is going to have more calcium and vitamin D. It’s going to have some of these nutrients that the regular soda is not going to have. Sometimes we call the energy-dense foods, we call those empty calories too. That’s what nutrient density is. It’s really the how many nutrients are in that food relative to their calories.

MR: So, as we apply it to the holiday season, what are some of these nutrient-dense foods that we could take in maybe before a holiday party, so we don’t overindulge when we get to that party?

JM: Yeah, so let me take this step back. If you’re going to have a meal around the holidays, a lot of the foods that we eat technically are nutrient-dense. Turkey, for instance, is a common food to have over the holidays. We think of it just as protein. Turkey has lots of vitamins and minerals, everything from selenium to B 12 that you can only find in meat. It also has phosphorus, which helps with bone. So, turkey would be one.

There are several others, things like cranberries, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and green beans. But what we tend to do in our holiday meals is we add extra sugar and fat. We have the turkey with the stuffing. We have the pumpkin pie, and pumpkin pie is not that bad. We have pecans, that’s another one that’s used during the holidays. We make pecan pie, which is one of the most energy-dense foods you can eat. We usually take these nutrient-dense foods, and we combine them with a bunch of sugar and fat and make them less healthy. Sweet potatoes are one of the best foods you can eat until you make sweet potato casserole. Green beans are really pretty good for you unless we throw some cheese on there and make green bean casserole.

Going to your question about what to do if you’re going to go to a party and you know you’re going to have some of these things, you can have some nutrient-dense snacks. Things like nuts would be a good example, a small salad or some veggies. Those all work before a party just to have a little something to take the edge off so you don’t go into your meal ravenous and eat things that maybe you shouldn’t.

MR: It’s such a tough time of year because it’s cold and so you want to stay cozy. You want to eat and that helps keep you warm, but then you don’t want to pack on the pounds, and we all know how quickly time is flying. We’re going to be talking about beach body weather before too long. Some of these tricks really can work to our advantage.

JM: Yeah, if you’re eating nutrient-dense foods throughout your day that will keep the snacking at bay. If you’re eating these nutrient-dense foods most of your day, it’s going to curb that appetite, especially if you have good protein in there. If you have lots of healthy fats at your meal, it’s going to keep you from snacking. It can help you lose weight over the long haul.

MR: That’s good because if you don’t need to snack, those are the empty calories that you don’t need.

JM: Yeah. It’s all about quality. Another word you might use instead of nutrients is just the nutrition quality. What’s the quality of your diet? We know like we just said a second ago, we tend to take foods that are really pretty good for you and kind of ruin them or make them less healthy. And I must say too, for folks that are watching, as you go into these meals around the holidays, just realize that it is just one day and maybe there are times when you want to go into these holidays and say, “you know what, I don’t get sweet potato casserole any other time of the year. I’m going to eat it this meal.” So, you make a wise choice. I think that’s what I would like people to hear. It’s okay to treat yourself, just don’t treat yourself every single day. 

You know, these holidays are just one day, but we tend to make it a whole week and then with the holidays it’s a whole month. Then you look up and you’ve gained five, six, or seven pounds by the new year and then you’re ready to start with the weight loss all over again.

MR: That’s right. Well, J.J. in our final minutes, is there anything else you’d like to add or any tips to kind of help get us through these last remaining weeks here in 2021?

JM: There’s an opportunity here for people as you’re going to the holiday seasons. The mindset is we have to maintain it, don’t gain it. That works for people to say, “You know, the holidays are going to be more challenging. You’re going to be around family, and you want to enjoy your family and you might eat a little more than you would like, but if you can just maintain it through the holidays and then get back on track in January, I think you’re are good to go. You’re here to make progress. It’s not about being perfect. Progress over perfection. I’ll take that all day long.

MR: That’s right. Don’t beat yourself up if you have two pieces of pie instead of one, it’s okay.

JM: It’s easy to do before you know it. Especially when you’re hanging with family. I wish everybody the best during this holiday season.

MR: Great. Alright, J.J., thank you for joining us today!

JM: I appreciate it. Take care.