As a registered dietitian nutritionist I am frustrated when I see headlines like, “5 Foods You Should Never Eat” or “Avoid These 10 Foods to Lose Weight.” I’ve never been a fan of categorizing foods as “good” or “bad”. One food won’t make or break your diet, cause you to gain or lose weight or create or prevent health problems. The key to healthy eating is consuming a variety of foods in appropriate portions and balancing calories eaten with calories expended with appropriate physical activity.
I prefer to take a positive approach when I talk about nutritious eating. Rather than “foods to avoid,” I like to talk about foods you should include in your meals and snacks. By focusing on good-tasting, nutrient-rich foods you will have less room for higher calorie, lower nutrient choices. But an occasional treat can certainly still be part of a healthful diet. Read on for my list of 5 foods to add to your diet:
Fresh fruit is always a great choice but frozen fruit can often be less expensive when it’s not in season. And frozen fruit can be more nutritious than fresh because it’s frozen immediately after harvest at its nutritional peak. Plus it’s already washed, peeled and seeded for you! I have frozen blueberries, mango and pineapple in my freezer now. Use frozen fruit on cereal at breakfast, mixed with yogurt for dessert or blended in a smoothie for a snack.
With more protein and less carbohydrate than traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt weighs in with the same number of calories but is creamier and richer tasting. It’s great for breakfast with fruit and whole grain cereal or with fruit in a smoothie. Try the plain variety as a lower calorie, more nutrient-rich topping for baked potatoes or tacos. I like light yogurt that’s fat-free and sweetened with an artificial sweetener like aspartame, for great taste with fewer calories.
Loaded with beta-carotene, the plant form of vitamin A, carrots, sweet potato and butternut squash also deliver generous amounts of fiber and potassium. If you don’t want to wash and peel the fresh varieties, canned and frozen are equally nutrient-rich. For creative ways to prepare them check out these recipes: Marinated Carrot Salad and Sugar-Free Sweet Potato Pie.
Brown rice is a delicious way to get more whole grains – which most people don’t consume enough of – in your meals along with a healthy dose of iron, B vitamins and fiber. It’s easier than ever to enjoy rice with 10-minute quick cooking and 90-second microwavable varieties along with flavored and combination rice mixes. Eat it as a side dish, top it with a veggie and lean meat stir-fry, combine it in a casserole or even have it for breakfast with low-fat milk and fruit.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee gave the green light to eating eggs every day after research in the last 20 years found eggs diet don’t raise blood cholesterol levels in most people. With high quality protein and an array of vitamins and minerals, eggs are an inexpensive easy-to-prepare way to boost nutrition. Scramble them with veggies, layer on whole grain bread with a slice of cheese or opt for a hard cooked egg as a snack dipped is salsa or spicy mustard.
So rather than focusing on foods to leave off your plate, make it a goal to add nutrient-rich foods like these to every meal. Before long you will no doubt feel better, have more energy and won’t miss those “foods to avoid.”
Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Dallas. She was a freelancer with Woman’s World magazine for 20 years and currently serves as a nutrition communications consultant to a variety of food and nutrition organizations, including the Calorie Control Council and the Egg Nutrition Center. She is passionate about promoting fact-based food and nutrition information to help people enjoy nutritious eating. Follow her on Twitter @NevaRDLD and check out her blog at www.NevaCochranRD.com.
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