General Questions

I am 27 years old. I aspire to be a bodybuilder in the very near future that is vigorously active every day and eats a healthy, balanced 3,000 calories per day from fibrous foods, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts to give myself healthy energy and to build muscle mass. Based on my knowledge, if I am vigorously active every day as a bodybuilder 2,000 calories per day will not meet my needs. Would a diet of 3,000 healthy, balanced calories per day from fibrous foods, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts to give me healthy energy and to build muscle mass, be nutritionally appropriate? 

Great to hear your interest in a healthy approach to bodybuilding. Kudos to you for focusing on eating fruits and veggies as well! Choosing nutrient-dense foods like veggies, fruits, grains (at least half of which are whole grains), lean proteins, healthy oils like those found in nuts and fish, and low-fat or fat-free dairy can help you ensure an overall healthy dietary pattern.  

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides a chart with estimated calorie needs by age, sex, and physical activity level (sedentary, moderately active, and active). This can be a starting point for individuals to estimate their energy needs. 3,000 calories per day is the general recommendation for a 26-30-year-old male with an active lifestyle. An active lifestyle in the Dietary Guidelines is defined as physical activity equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour in addition to normal daily activities.  

Keep in mind that this is just a general recommendation and determining if this will work for you will depend on many factors. It may be helpful to ask for a referral to a Registered Dietitian specializing in nutrition for athletes. They could review your specific medical history and training plans and calculate your unique hydration, protein, carbohydrate, and fat needs for before, during, and after workouts to help you meet your goals. 

How can I get help with meal planning on EBT?

Meal planning is an excellent way to stretch your food dollars and make mealtimes less stressful because you have a plan for what you’re going to make each day.  

A good starting point is to do a quick inventory of what’s in your fridge and pantry each week before grocery shopping. Check to see what staple foods you might be running low on and which foods you need to use up in the next week before they spoil.  

Once you have a list of what you have on hand, think about what meals these foods can be used in. I like to have a list of 5-10 meals that I know my family likes and that use staple ingredients to make meal planning less stressful.  

Choose the meals you want to make for the week and then compare the ingredients to what you have on hand to make your grocery list. Fruits and veggies are key to building healthy, balanced meals, but remember that they don’t have to be fresh. Choose the most cost-effective variety of fruits and veggies that your family likes – fresh, canned, or frozen are all excellent choices! If you have access to multiple grocery stores, it can also be helpful to look at weekly ads to see if there are any good deals on foods you regularly eat.  

Using a meal planning template can be helpful to organize your ideas and keep you on track throughout the week.  

If you are looking for recipe ideas on a budget, check out the MyPlate Kitchen recipes, Michigan Harvest of the Month™, Eat Well on $4/Day – Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown, and Recipes for Healthy Kids: Cookbook for Homes. 

The Shop Simple with MyPlate app can also help you find budget friendly recipes as well as stores and farmers markets that accept EBT and offer fruit and vegetable reward programs and incentives. Some Michigan farmers markets also have food navigators who can help you make the most of your food dollars. Check out the Eat Well in a Snap Food Navigator directory to see if your local market has a food navigator.  

Lastly, if you have access, you can ask your doctor for a referral to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who can help you dive deeper into meal planning that meets your lifestyle, health needs, and budget on a more personal level.  

I’m vegan but I’m concerned I’m not getting the necessary nutrients that animal products provide. So I decided to introduce eggs into my diet. How many eggs per week should I eat in order to get the full amount of micro and macro nutrients that I need?

Eggs are a nutrient dense food that can be a beneficial addition to a dietary plan. Eggs are a good source of vitamin B12 and contain protein, vitamin D, and small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which are all nutrients that may be limited in a traditional vegan diet.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) 2020-2025 include a Healthy Vegetarian Dietary Pattern that lays out recommended servings to eat from the different food groups each day or week to meet individual energy and nutrient needs. The Healthy Vegetarian Dietary Pattern recommends 3 eggs per week across most energy levels. Historically, there has been some question about the link between eating eggs and heart health. The most recent studies suggest that up to one egg per day is unlikely to affect heart health for most people.

The Healthy Vegetarian Dietary Pattern in the DGAs includes eggs, but studies show that replacing eggs with vegetarian protein source like beans, peas, lentils, soy products, and nuts has minimal impact on overall dietary quality and meeting recommended nutrient needs.

Here is more information about some of the nutrients found in eggs and plant-based alternative options.

  • Protein – Eggs contain about 6g of protein per large egg. Plant-based protein sources include nuts, tofu, beans, peas, and lentils, whole grains, vegetables, and seeds.
  • Vitamin B12 – Eggs are a good source of vitamin B12. B12 is limited in a vegetarian or vegan diet and may require supplementation or careful planning to include food sources such as tempeh, nutritional yeast, or fortified foods like cereals or fortified soy milk to meet individual needs.
  • Vitamin D – One large egg contains about 6% of your daily recommended vitamin D. Vitamin D can also be found in fortified milk and milk alternative products.
  • EPA and DHA – EPA and DHA are omega-3 fatty acids that are found in eggs in limited amounts. You can purchase eggs that have been enriched with higher amounts of EPA and DHA. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, soy, and canola oil are also sources of these nutrients.

For a more in-depth dive into your individual nutrient needs and to develop a meal plan that is well aligned with your priorities and the foods you like to eat, ask your doctor for a referral to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

How long can I keep leftover food?

Depending on the ingredients and storage conditions, leftover foods can stay fresh for a range of time. In general, if a dish was cooked safely and then rapidly cooled and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, it’ll likely stay fresh for 3-4 days. If that same food was stored in the freezer, it is technically safe to eat indefinitely though will maintain quality for 3-4 months.

Be sure to reheat cooked leftover foods to a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If reheating in a microwave, stir well and allow the food to rest for a few minutes after microwaving to ensure even heat distribution and prevent bacteria from hiding out in cold spots.

FoodSafety.gov is an excellent resource for food storage and safety information. Check out the FoodKeeper App for tips to help maximize the shelf life and for information on how to best store specific foods. You can also find guidelines for storing cold foods using their Cold Food Storage Chart.

For more information on food safety, visit the How to Prevent Food Poisoning page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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