Healthy Staples That Save My Diet—And Could Save Yours!

It’s no secret that I love food and I love to eat. And even though I’m a nutritionist, I won’t eat something just because it’s healthy—it simply has to taste good, too! Over time I’ve come to rely on certain healthy staples and want to share them with you.  Some of these foods help me shave off some calories, others are just seriously wholesome—and some are both calorie-savers and super-healthy. Check  ‘em out.

I’d love to hear about your healthy go-to foods. They may become my new favorites or might be saviors for someone else reading this blog.  So please feel free to send your favorites by posting a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Nature’s Path Flax Plus cereal.  This flakey, whole wheat-based cereal has a reassuringly small ingredient list. With a pleasant, toasted whole-wheat taste you don’t feel like you’re eating your multi-vitamins because there are no added vitamins and minerals.  It’s low in sugar, with a crispness that holds up well to milk. Note: You are most likely to find it in the health food aisle at conventional supermarkets, not necessarily in the cereal aisle.  I usually mix in a small portion of another favorite: Kashi Autumn Wheat, which is somewhat sweet, but not sickeningly so.

Feta cheese.  This is actually a bit of a funky one of this list — because I’m not saying that feta cheese is not some paragon of health. But what it does do is that it encourages me to eat healthy food!  Sure, I like salads enough, but I love my salad when it’s got a tablespoon or two of feta cheese dusted on top.  And yeah, mashed white beans with a little olive oil and herbs make a good topping for whole wheat bread, but it’s a great topping when a little feta is crumbled on top. I usually opt for French feta – it’s less salty and more creamy than the typical Greek feta.

Bok choy.  Cooked cabbage has never done it for me. That is, until I had my first bok choy stir-fry.  And after trying baby bok choy—the even more tender and juicy version—I was completely hooked on this member of the cruciferous family. Like broccoli and cauliflower, bok choy contains some of the same cancer-fighting compounds.  It’s so simple to cook:  wash the entire head (they’re not all that big); chop the leaves just coarsely (some varieties have small leaves that don’t need any chopping); heat a heavy-bottomed (I use cast iron) skillet; spray it with a bit of vegetable oil and toss in two teaspoons olive oil; add a teaspoon chopped garlic; if you have it, throw in 2 teaspoons chopped ginger. Then stir-fry until the leaves are just starting to wilt.  I add a splash of reduced sodium soy sauce at the very end (and no salt).

Cold “coffee skim milk”.  Notice that I’m not calling this a “latte,” because, as you’ll see, it isn’t!  Yes, I love iced skim lattes as well.  But this is the homemade version—way cheaper and lets me customize exactly how I want it.  How to: I add a tablespoon or two of boiling water to decaffeinated (or sometimes regular) instant coffee and one teaspoon sugar, and stir until they dissolve.  Then I let it cool a little, and add a cup of skim milk.  It’s surprisingly good; and gets me to drink calcium-rich milk which I otherwise am unlikely to drink straight-up.  Bonus: more and more research is finding that coffee is linked to reduced risk of colon cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Bionaturae whole wheat pasta. A warning before you read further: I can’t be 100% sure that you’ll be able to get your hands on this Italian import since it’s not yet in wide distribution. Granted, it’s in all the Whole Foods I’ve been to on the East Coast; I’m just not certain about the Whole Foods in other parts of the country.  Regardless, it gets my vote as the best 100% whole wheat pasta I’ve ever had. Very little grittiness, no bitterness, but it’s still a hearty, chewy, whole grain pasta. Buon appetito!

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