Five Foods to Add to Your Diet
By Kelly Laschkewitsch, RD LD
Almost half of all Americans are on a diet—which is not surprising when you consider how preoccupied the country is with weight. But our widespread optimism for weight loss makes us susceptible to all kinds of claims and promises about food—most of them aren’t even true.
Typically, when we are trying to lose weight, we focus our attention on what NOT to eat. But, the types of changes needed to achieve and sustain weight loss become easier when attacked from two directions: what to eat and what not to eat.
To help you get started in the right direction, here a few food suggestions that can bolster your arsenal of healthy food choices. In some circles, the foods below are considered “super foods” as they have shown health benefits such as lowering the risk of various diseases. Plus, these foods will help you keep calories low while providing optimal nutrition. If you are already on a special eating regimen, talk with your dietitian about the best time to introduce these foods into your diet.
Blueberries: Many fruits offer a variety of nutritional benefits, but blueberries pack an extra nutritional punch. They provide more antioxidants than any other fruit. Their dark blue color is a sign of anthocyanin, a strong antioxidant. A cup of blueberries provides 14% of recommended daily fiber, a good source of vitamin C and only 82 calories.
Beans: Black…garbanzo…navy…kidney beans…doesn’t matter which ones you eat, as they all provide a great balance of protein and fiber. Plant-based proteins, as opposed to animal proteins, have no cholesterol and are lower in saturated fat. The fiber keeps you feeling full longer, keeps your bowels regular and causes less of an increase in blood sugar. Beyond protein and fiber these power foods are loaded with minerals, like magnesium and offer health-promoting phytochemicals. Beans can be easily added to salads, soups or as a side dish or mixed into other meals. To lessen gas caused by beans, add them slowly to your diet and be sure to rinse canned beans thoroughly. If you are cooking dry beans, put them in boiling water for 3 minutes, turn off the heat and let them sit for a couple of hours, rinse thoroughly and cook further in fresh water until tender.
Salmon: Fish in general provides similar protein content per ounce as meat but with lower calories and fat. The fat in fish is healthier than the fat in beef, pork and poultry. Salmon in particular is a great source of a healthy fat called omega-3 fat. Higher omega-3 fat intake has been associated with reduced heart disease risk and lower rates of mental disorders like depression. Salmon is great grilled with simple seasoning like lemon, thyme, garlic and pepper. Canned salmon can be a protein topper on a salad. It is generally recommended to eat 2 or more servings of fatty fish per week.
Tofu: This protein rich food is cholesterol-free and a good source of protein, iron, copper and manganese. Like beans, tofu provides fiber along with protein. Animal protein sources don’t offer the fiber. Don’t be intimidated by tofu. It can be used in a variety of ways. Silken tofu can be blended smooth and used in smoothies. Firm and extra firm tofu can be used in stir-fries, casseroles, egg dishes and on top of salads. One key to enjoying tofu is adding flavors that the tofu can absorb such as spices, sauces, blackening seasoning and marinades.
Colorful Vegetables: Eat a rainbow of colors in your vegetables! Each color represents a different set of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. The deeper the color, the richer the nutrient content. Dark green vegetables are rich in folate and vitamin C. Orange vegetables are rich in vitamin A and C. All vegetables provide fiber, most of which is in the skin of the vegetable. Vegetables are the lowest calorie food per serving. Filling half of your plate with vegetables is a good way to fill up while not eating too many calories.