We're living in an era when the word healthy is being redefined—and it's about time
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Ever since fat was demonized, Americans started eating more sugar, refined carbs, and processed foods. Remember the days when olestra (a fake cooking oil) reigned supreme and you could eat 14 fat-free Pringles for 3 points? Thank goodness times are changing! I think we can all agree that we've only just skimmed the surface when it comes to revamping the definition of healthy.
Though the verdict is still out (and I highly encourage you to weigh in) on what the definition of healthy will include, one thing's for certain: These foods that were once considered "unhealthy" are in fact nutritional powerhouses. Better yet, many brands that produce these foods rely on registered dietitians to validate their credibility.
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Eggs are one of the few foods that are not only budget-friendly but also nutritional superheroes. Did you know in just one large egg you get 13 essential vitamins and minerals plus 6 grams of high-quality protein? Plus, research shows that protein in eggs can reduce hunger and facilitate weight loss as well as help with weight maintenance. And to think that you used to discard the nutrient-rich yolk out of fear of its fat content.
With so many different varieties of eggs on store shelves, it can get a little confusing, but this guide to buying the healthiest eggs should help. Molly Bray Yunek, R.D.N. at Davidson's Safest Choice Eggs, which produces a good pasteurized option, knows that it's important to set the record straight about the important role eggs can play in a healthy diet. "For the longest time we have targeted dietary cholesterol as the reason behind heart disease, which couldn't be further from the truth," she says.
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Nuts were once touted as a high-fat food that should be feared if you want to lose weight. Lucky for you, science has proven that not all fat is bad. In fact, nuts (like Wonderful Pistachios) are actually a great addition to a heart-healthy diet. According to the FDA, one and a half servings of nuts per day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease (plus added antioxidants). A double bonus, unlike potato chips, pistachios offer a good source of protein and fiber, with more than three times as many pieces per serving. Pistachios give you about 49 nuts per serving—compare that to just 15 potato chips per serving. (And who can eat just 15 potato chips?)
Photo: Wonderful Pistachios
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Thank goodness the days of "dairy is the devil" are finally over. I remember times when clients would actually tell me dairy led to cellulite, and so they would cut out milk entirely. As times have changed, so has our definition of the types of dairy products we recommend. Though the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans still recommend low-fat dairy, many dietitians are jumping back on the whole milk wagon for good reason. (Read all about that debate here: Should you give up skim milk for full-fat milk?)
According to The a2 Milk Company's Bonnie Johnson, R.D.N., milk is a healthy choice no matter the amount of fat, and the science to support this is piling up. "Many people have given up milk because they don't like the taste and texture of nonfat or skim milk, which puts them at risk of nutrient deficiencies and poor diet quality," she says. "If people need permission to drink whole milk again, please, you have it! Whole milk can be incorporated as a part of a healthy diet and there's no need to fear the fat. Fat is a great way to increase satiety and leave you feeling full, focused, and ready to take on the day."
Photo: The a2 Milk Company
100% Fruit Juice
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Remember when diet drinks reigned supreme because they had 0 calories? I'm thankful we have research to support why 100 percent fruit juice can be included as part of a healthy diet. Nearly all Americans are falling short of the recommended intake for fruit, but 100 percent juice can offer a simple solution for those looking to up their intake.
While the national dietary guideline says that half of your servings should come from whole fruit, 1 cup of 100 percent fruit juice can help you get closer to your daily goal, as it's equivalent to 1 serving of fruit. POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice is a great option because it provides a good source of potassium and each 8-ounce serving contains the juice of two whole pomegranates—with no cheap filler juices or added sugars.
Photo: POM Wonderful
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Friends, don't fear the carbs! Sure, refined grains aren't the nutritional powerhouses we're looking for, but high-quality whole grains, as well as carbohydrates from real fruits, should definitely be considered healthy. Not only do whole grains provide essential nutrients, like B vitamins, fiber, and protein, but they're also excellent for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Plus, 100 percent fruit, including dried varieties, takes you one step closer to hitting your fruit goal for the day.
The good news is brands such as KIND have listened to consumers and continues to create high-quality nutritious products filled with these ingredients. KIND offers a new line of Breakfast Bars, Healthy Grains, and Pressed Snacks. KIND even has registered dietitian nutritionists on staff who help them continue to create nutrient-balanced snacks for on-the-go eating.
Photo: KIND Snacks
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How can something referred to these days as the "green goddess" ever have been considered bad for you? I'm glad those days are gone. Avocados are not only packed with 20 vitamins and minerals and are one of the best foods for a healthy heart, but they also have other stellar plant compounds that help improve your overall health.
"Besides their creamy deliciousness, nutrient-dense avocados fit right into a healthy diet," says Andrea Giancoli, an R.D.N. based in Los Angeles. "This fruit—yes avocados are a fruit—contributes those good fats and delivers a good source of fiber," she says. "Avocados are not as high in calories as people might think. One serving (1/3 of a medium avocado, roughly 50g) clocks in at 80 calories and is naturally sodium- and sugar-free."
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Did you know that eating a salad or fiber-filled vegetables without a secondary food source for fat actually causes you to miss out on a ton of nutrition from those leafy greens and veggies? It saddens me to think of the days when it was the "trendy" way to order your salad: naked—sans dressing, cheese, and avocado. You need to include healthy fats, like oils, with your veggie-containing meals because it's the only way your body will truly absorb the nutrients. Fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E, and K need fat to get into your body.
Manuel Villacorta, M.S., R.D., echoes the sentiment, saying that "adding oil in your recipes is crucial to get the nutrition you need from your food. I use canola oil because it has the least saturated fat of all common oils—half that of olive oil—and is free of trans fat and cholesterol. Canola oil also has the most omega-3 fat of any cooking oil and is a good source of vitamin E."