Avoid gaining weight this winter with these healthy foods—from fruits and vegetables to nuts and meat—that keep your diet in check
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Seemingly always in season, avocados are a perfect substitute for cheese on chilis, salads, or just eaten raw! The avocado is filled with good, healthy fats that, when consumed in moderation, will help you feel more satisfied with each meal helping you eat less.
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A recent study found that collard greens beat kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts in their ability to improve digestion and lower cholesterol. Collards also contain anti-cancer properties. Be careful not to overcook to avoid an unpleasant smell; it’s best to steam for no more than five minutes.
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One of the oldest known fruits, pomegranate is available year round and rich in phytochemicals. A glass of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than red wine, blueberries, and cranberries! Try adding the raw seeds into salads for a sweet crunch, mixed into a holiday sangria, or as a crisp addition to cranberry sauce.
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Not just for the perfect pumpkin pie, Cassia cinnamon helps “stabilize blood sugar by enhancing insulin activity, and promotes a feeling of satiety” keeping you full for longer, says Hartley. “Be sure not to take more than ¼ teaspoon daily, as it is also a potent blood thinner.”
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While it may not be the most flavorful veggie in the world, cauliflower is now being touted as a great replacement for rice and grains, especially among the Paleo crowd. When this relative of broccoli is grated, it literally gets riced and can be served in dishes such as stir fry, jambalaya, or in a favorite rice or pasta dish. The carbs are plentiful in winter, so at least let cauliflower help you out when it can!
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Turmeric’s health and healing properties have been known and celebrated for hundreds of years by Eastern traditions, and now science is starting to find out why. “Turmeric has highly potent anti-inflammatory properties, especially the orange pigment, curcumin, a phytochemical that helps prevent and treat diseases such as heart disease and diabetes,” explains Mary Hartley, R.D.
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Quinoa is an ancient, naturally gluten-free grain that has been around for thousands of years. Pop culture is catching up and now quinoa can be found almost anywhere. Packed with protein, iron, and energy-boosting B vitamins, it’s the perfect low-calorie, low-glycemic substitute for your holiday grains: think stuffings, salads, granola. Try it in this Fig & Honey Breakfast Quinoa Bowl.
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Walnuts are available year-round as a great source of protein and texture in cooking, baking, and snacks. High in manganese and copper, the fiber and omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts stave off hunger. Harvard School of Public Health also found people were more likely to stick to a Mediterranean style diet with nuts and nut butters to lose weight over a low-fat diet.
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Flax seed is a worthy friend of the chia seed, and can be an equally useful addition to your diet. It has an abundance of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), “an omega-3 fatty acid that helps the heart and brain and is high in lignans, a compound with anti-cancer activity,” explained Hartley. Flax seed is loaded with fiber that, when accompanied by water, will lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and prevent constipation. “For best absorption, choose flax seed meal. A one tablespoon dose provides a healthy daily serving of one-eighth grams of ALA,” she says.
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We’re talking, whole, real cranberries! This holiday staple, always found in various jellies, sauces, stuffings, and baked goods has an “amazing array of phytonutrients with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties, all appearing together in a complete, synergistic group for maximum health benefits,” Hartley says. They help prevent (but not treat!) bladder infections and are a rich source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
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Bountiful in the winter time, these gorgeous veggies take on different hues based on varying levels of pigmented nutrients. Just like the standard orange variety, all are loaded with beta-carotene and lutein. Try roasting them with a maple-mustard glaze!
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A Central and South American root vegetable akin to the potato, yucca root is thicker and gummier in texture making it an exciting addition to soups, mashed potatoes, and even french fries! It’s known to help manage symptoms of diabetes and arthritis.
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“Artichokes are nuber seven on the USDA’s top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list,” says Hartley. “They are a good source of potassium magnesium, dietary fiber, vitamins B6, C, and K. They nourish the ‘good’ bacteria in the intestines to help ward off disease.” Phew! If that’s not reason enough to try them, artichokes are naturally low in calories while loaded with fiber to promote fullness. Try them in our much Healthier Spinach and Artichoke Dip.
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A secret super food used by Asian cultures for thousands of years, these mushrooms have the tradition of enhancing almost all aspects of health and prolonging lifespan. Reishi (pronounced ree-shee) mushrooms help manage high blood pressure, liver or kidney disease, and many cancers. Typically ingested in the form of dried mushrooms or powder, they can also be used as a blood thinner, so check with your doctor if you’re already taking something similar or have low blood pressure.
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Forever on the list of the world’s healthiest foods, chard is proven to contain at least 13 different antioxidants, it helps manage blood sugar, and is loaded with vitamins and trace minerals. Boil the leaves for at least three minutes to maximize health benefits, or spice up salads and smoothies with the raw leaves.
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Replacing sour cream with this increasingly popular dairy product, made from skim milk and live active cultures, can cut fat and calories while keeping gut bacteria in check. Try an accessible brand like Siggi’s Icelandic Yogurt, as this yogurt style has two to three times more protein than standard yogurt. “Researchers say that a diet rich in protein promotes fullness, which in turn, may result in eating less and losing weight,” says Hartley. Look for brands made with organic milk and a few simple ingredients (without tons of sugar or artificial preservatives, thickeners, or colors).
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One of the biggest helpers on the path to weight loss is lean protein. It takes longer to digest and therefore helps you maintain healthy blood sugar levels and feelings of fullness. Very few foods seem to do that as well as salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA make seafood and sustainably-sourced salmon a key component of any well balanced diet.
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A starchy but wholesome part of any holiday meal, sweet potatoes have earned their spot at the table with their high amount of dietary fiber, low calorie content, and countless nutrients. Think sweet potato fries, mashed on the side, or roasted in a classic casserole (just watch the marshmallows!). Bake a plain sweet potato and top it with chili instead of cornbread or chips!
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Our favorite superpowered berry may not be in season, but the benefits can still be enjoyed by way of the freezer. Organic frozen berries are a delicious, antioxidant-packed addition to oatmeal, green smoothies, or salads for a pop of sweetness.
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While cheese is not exactly touted as a weight-loss food, it's one of the most craved (and comforting) foods. Point being: Don't deprive yourself of what you truly crave. Find moderate and constructive ways to add high-quality cheese to your diet. Try parmesan on spaghetti squash, sharp cheddar on chili, or a few cubes of gouda with a glass of red wine.
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Unlike olive oil, grapeseed oil maintains its integrity during high heat. This means all the heart-healthy benefits are still intact no matter the temperature at which the oil is used. There is also strong evidence that grape seed extract is beneficial for cardiovascular conditions and diabetes.
Sunflower Seed Butter
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Want to spice up an ordinary PB&J? Sunflower seeds can be processed into a smooth, spreadable alternative to nut butters, great for anyone with nut allergies. Some brands of this creamy spread also deliver more fiber, magnesium, niacin, and vitamin E than average nut butters. Try it in these Raw Sunflower Seed Butter Cookies.