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Building a Balanced Plate with Functional Foods

Tasty must-haves that go above and beyond.

Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team

Don’t all foods serve a function? Nutritionally speaking, not necessarily. Some foods simply taste great, but have little, if any, nutritionally‍-‍redeeming properties. While others may actually be providing more than simple nutrients like carbohydrates or vitamins. These types of foods are deemed functional. The term functional food refers to foods that provide above and beyond the usual, expected, nutrition.

Take blueberries as an example. Each cup of blueberries has more of a function than simply providing 15% the Daily Value for vitamin C and 11% the Daily Value for fiber. Blueberries contain plant compounds called phytochemicals. One such group of phytochemicals includes anthocyanins found in the skin of fresh and frozen blueberries. Anthocyanins give blueberries their purple‍-‍blue color and are thought to act as antioxidant all‍-‍stars. This means the purple‍-‍blue color of blueberries makes these sweet and sour morsels disease‍-‍fighting heroes against the wear and tear of daily life.


As mighty as functional foods may be, it’s important to understand one single food doesn’t provide the magic cure‍-‍all. Instead, a well‍-‍balanced meal plan rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, lowfat and fat‍-‍free milk products and heart‍-‍healthy oils needs to be the primary focus.


With certain foods packing just a bit more punch than others, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when meal planning. Don’t! Putting together a healthy, well‍-‍balanced plate doesn’t require building an exotic puzzle of just the right pieces of functional foods. Incorporate all types of foods, functional and not, to enjoy what you eat while getting the most out of every bite.



Build a Balanced Plate


Whole Grains

Incorporate more fiber and function per spoonful over their refined counterparts.



Build a rainbow of colors on your plate with varying textures and colors. A different color means a different function!



Add a sweet, immune‍-‍supporting punch, minus the excess fat, added sugar and empty calories.



Choose functional sources most often. Grilled omega‍-‍3 fat‍-‍rich salmon, grilled soy burgers and probiotic‍-‍rich yogurt are three examples.

Published 8/22/2022