Healthy eating should be a goal all year long. Choosing nutrient-rich foods at the grocery store is a great first step to reaching it. According to the American Heart Association, the standard American diet is energy-rich (calorically heavy) but nutrient poor. And while people are making smarter food choices, there is still room for improvement, especially with regard to limiting consumption of red meat.

In his own practice, Dr. William Healy encourages his patients to choose foods that are high in minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients vital for health, without too many added sugars, sodium, and saturated fat. Such foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein sources that serve as the building blocks of a nutritious diet. Dr. Healy shares some of the ways that individuals can make their diets more nutritious:

1. Read nutrition labels. The Nutrition Facts label included on items sold in North America is a significant source of information. Consumers may only read the first few lines, but it’s best to read the entire label before deciding whether or not to purchase a given product. Some foods may feature endorsements on their packaging, and the inclusion of such labels indicates they’re healthy choices. For example, the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark indicates the product aligns with their recommendations for an overall healthy eating plan.

2. Choose more whole grains. Whole grains are low in fat and high in fiber. They’re also a smarter source of carbohydrates because they contain complex carbs that keep a person feeling fuller longer. Try to avoid products labeled “enriched,” as they’ve had the germ and bran removed from the grain to produce a smoother texture, which means they need to be refortified with nutrients.

3. Eat dark, leafy greens. Green vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Kale, spinach, and collard greens can be added to soups, stews, scrambled eggs, and salads for a powerful punch of nutrition.

4. Pick pulses. Pulses are essential to plant-based diets, but they also can be enjoyed by meat eaters. The Global Pulse Federation says pulses, which include foods such as lentils and chickpeas, are rich in protein and fiber and low in fat. They also contain complex carbohydrates that take longer to break down. Research shows pulses can lower blood cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and help with weight management.

5. Go with skim or low-fat dairy. Dairy products are rich in calcium and vitamin D, but those nutrients may come at the cost of saturated fat. Choose reduced fat dairy options in recipes and when snacking.

William M. Healy, MD is a physician who specializes in Internal Medicine and Geriatrics. He is located at 2235 Millersport Hwy #100, Getzville, NY 14068. To make an appointment with Dr. Healey call 716-204-5933, and visit his website at WilliamHealyMD.