I find it funny when a patient becomes bored while trying to eat healthy. (By the way, that same patient never complained about eating a plain bagel and cream cheese each morning for years before we met.) For many, there seems to be a strong disconnect between eating healthy and loving what they are eating.
Sure, I love French fries and pizza, but if asked which foods I couldn't live without, they wouldn't be included. Which foods would make my short list? If I narrow down the many foods I love, which would be tough, I'd say: oatmeal, eggs, hummus, and a baked potato. For me, oatmeal is the perfect start to the day because it's high in fiber, so it fills me up. Eggs can be prepared in many different ways and are a great source of protein. Hummus is packed with flavor (but not fat), and goes so well with a variety of foods. And a baked potato is the perfect stand-alone meal; I love it topped with hummus and an egg, or as the perfect compliment to my entree.
I know I'm not alone in my love of food, so I decided to ask my registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN) pals which foods they couldn't live without. Mind you, it was very hard for them to choose, too.
Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
"I absolutely can't live without low-fat ricotta and Greek yogurt. Packed with protein and calcium, they're the ultimate multitasking foods that help you stay full, slim and strong. I put them on everything. Another is Ezekiel 4:9 Flax Sprouted Whole Grain Bread. Just one slice has four grams of fiber, five grams of protein and only 80 calories. "
Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN, author of "Nutrition At Your Fingertips" and fellow Eat + Run blogger
"I love pink grapefruit because of its sweet taste, not to mention the vitamin C punch it packs. Brussels sprouts are delicious and a great way to incorporate veggies into my diet. I love sirloin or strip steak for its high-quality protein, along with its B vitamins, iron and zinc. I really love the taste and texture of lean beef and don't need a big portion to feel satisfied. And I simply adore doughy bread with a little butter or dipped in olive oil--comfort food all the way!
Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of "1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes"
"I'm a pasta fanatic; I never go a week without it. It's a perfect and fast foundation for a nutritious meal. When I'm in the mood for comfort food on the go, I reach for pizza. And frankly, it can be a rather balanced food, nutritionally speaking. At home, you can always find an avocado in my kitchen. It's my better butter, my sandwich condiment of choice and my ideal pairing with eggs. Of course, I can't live without veggies either. I'm a devotee of broccoli; it has so many health promoting properties, but I eat it because I'm obsessed with the flavor!"
Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
"Oats (certified gluten-free for me) are my absolute comfort food. My mom and grandmother used to make oatmeal for me growing up, and now I make it for myself almost every day. When I'm looking for a yummy carb fix, sweet potatoes are my go-to food. I bake them and either sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar or drizzle a little maple syrup on top. Not a day goes by that I don't add avocado to one of my meals. And cilantro--they say you either love it or hate it--is my go-to herb for a good number of dishes, including fresh salads, eggs, soups, stews and grain dishes."
Ellie Krieger, MS, RDN, author of "Comfort Food Fix," TV host
"Almonds are satisfyingly crunchy and incredibly versatile. They're great for snacking, as toppings, in smoothies, in coating for chicken and fish, in pasta dishes and more. I also love the peppery flavor of arugula, and it's great on it's own as a salad, piled in sandwiches or tossed into sauces and wilted. I use lemons in everything from slices in water to zest and juice to brighten grain pilafs. Every evening, I have a glass of red wine with dinner. It has bona fide health benefits and sure helps me unwind from the day!"
Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RDN, CDN, author of "Read It Before You Eat It" and fellow Eat + Run blogger
"I'm nuts about almonds, and they pair perfectly with some of my other favorites when sprinkled on Greek yogurt, tossed in oatmeal, topped on salmon, and nestled in a trail mix with dark chocolate! These foods are not only good for me, but they also keep me feeling deliciously full and fit. And although I could live without wine and homemade muffins, I wouldn't want to! "
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RDN, RD, author of "The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear--with Fiber!"
"I love Krave turkey jerky. It's savory and salty, high in protein and easy to stash in my bag when traveling. Tomato sauce is incredibly versatile and gives any dish a rich, robust flavor without a lot of calories. A good glass of wine or flavored vodka helps me relax without guilt, because four ounces of wine or one ounce of vodka has only 80 to 100 calories. And raspberries are like nature's candy--sweet and tart in the same bite. Plus, raspberries pack eight grams of fiber."
Patricia Bannan, RD, author of "Eat Right When Time is Tight"
"I can't live without cheese. I eat full-flavor, real cheese, meaning nothing processed. With a high-quality cheese, a little goes a long way in terms of taste. And I always have a bit of high-quality dark chocolate in my kitchen for when I'm craving something sweet. The rich bitter taste will satisfy me with just about an ounce. And coffee--I am not happy until I have my morning cup of joe. I think it's mostly a "ritualistic" response; I love the smell of coffee in the morning and drinking it while watching the morning news."
Believe me, the list of foods we couldn't live without could go on and on. Remember that delicious and healthy is by far not an oxymoron; the words can be more like synonyms. And what's the real beauty of loving the healthy foods you eat? It leaves room in your diet for the French fries.
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Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans's expert nutrition advice has been featured in Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self and Shape, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, Primetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.