If you’re like many of us, you’ve probably made a New Year’s Resolution to eat healthier. Maybe you’re trying to lose weight, or maybe you just want to feel better. Whatever your reason for losing weight, creating balanced meals can be an important part of living your best life now. Here are some affordable, healthy foods that are simple to prepare – some only need to be washed or peeled!
Fruits are nature’s dessert. With natural sweetness, as well as plenty of fiber, fruit can be a sweet treat that gives you energy and has plenty of fiber to keep your gut moving smoothly. Here are some of the best fruits and berries you can eat:
- Apples – they say an apple a day keeps the doctor away and that’s because apples have plenty of Vitamin C, anti-oxidants, and lots of fiber to keep you regular. They’re portable and sweet, perfect for snacking between meals.
- Avocados – although some may think they have a vegetable, avocados are actually a “stone fruit” like peaches, cherries, and plums. Avocados are rich in dietary fats, which your body needs to fully absorb many vitamins and minerals.
- Bananas- these are one of the richest foods in potassium, very portable and they even come in their own packaging! Bananas are also high in Vitamin B and fiber. Be careful, though – at 100 calories each, bananas can add up quickly.
- Blueberries – there are nature’s super-fruit for anti-oxidants. Perfect to mix into a smoothie or with Greek yogurt for a fruit parfait.
- Oranges – perfect when you’re sick, oranges are sweet, juicy, and refreshing. They are high in Vitamin C and loads of fiber. Be careful when drinking just orange juice, however – you’ll get all the sugar but none of the essential fiber.
- Strawberries – these have manganese, one of a few fruits that do. They’re also high in Vitamin C, fiber, and natural sugar.
Eggs are a perfect package of protein. Choose hardboiled to eat on the go, or create a healthy scramble with eggs, diced peppers, onions, and other vegetables, or even fried (hold the butter – use non-stick spray instead) on top of whole wheat toast with avocado.
Meat isn’t the enemy, as long as you’re thinking about your cuts and preparation. Lean meat can be an excellent source of protein, which your body needs for muscle growth. Did you know that protein also helps the body heal after an injury or surgery? It’s your body’s building block, so make sure that you get plenty in a balanced meal! Look for low-fat cuts of meat, and avoid processed meats, including sausage, hot dogs, and some deli meats. Read your labels for the sodium content. If you choose fish, try to avoid ones high in mercury, too.
- Lean beef, either a lean cut of steak like tenderloin, flank steak or trimmed New York Strip, is a great source of protein and iron. Your body needs iron for energy – low iron levels can make you feel tired and lethargic.
- Chicken – Chicken is nature’s wonder protein. It’s almost all protein, especially the breast, once the skin is removed. It’s mild enough that even the pickiest eater like sit, and it can take on just about any flavor. If you are dieting, consider using Indian or Jamaican spices on your chicken to liven it up and give your palate a change.
- Lamb – although lamb can be pricey due to its small yields, lamb chops are a delicious, iron and protein-rich treat, as well as a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Salmon – Salmon is high in protein, as well as rich in Omega -3 fatty acids, essential dietary fats.
Nuts and Seeds
These portable, calorie-dense foods are a great source of dietary fats and protein. However, the calories in nuts can add up quickly, so if you’re watching your intake, make sure that you portion these out according to the nutrition label.
- Almonds – these nuts are a great source of Vitamin E, rich in anti-oxidants, and a great source of magnesium.
- Chia seeds – these little guys have 11 grams of fiber per serving, as well as plenty of protein and magnesium and other anti-oxidants. Try mixing a tablespoon into a smoothie to feel fuller longer.
- Coconuts – these are full of fiber as well as a good source of fatty acids called medium-chain triglycerides. If you’re purchasing shredded coconut, look for unsweetened, so you get all the nutrients without the added sugar.
- Peanuts – these are tasty, versatile, and fairly inexpensive. Consider purchasing “natural” peanut butter for a great source of dietary fat, anti-oxidants, and protein without added sugar.
If you’re serious about getting healthy, your first stop should be the vegetable aisle! Nutritionists recommend “eating the rainbow” of veggies, as different colors represent vegetables high in different vital nutrients and vitamins.
- Asparagus – this vegetable is a great source of vitamin K and low in carbs and calories. Try grilling it for a tasty alternative.
- Bell peppers and mini sweet peppers are great sources of vitamin C, vitamin K, and anti-oxidants. Try then dipped in Hummus, or stuff them with your lean ground meat
- Broccoli- great both steamed and raw, although cooking changes the flavor. This cruciferous vegetable has Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and even a good amount of protein.
- Cauliflower – this versatile vegetable is broccoli’s cousin. It’s great mashed with a bit of unsalted butter, or “riced” where the florets are finely chopped and sautéed. Consider mashed or riced cauliflower instead of rice or potatoes if you’re following a low carb diet.
- Carrots – great for Vitamin K, beta-carotene, and other minerals. If you love snacking on chips and dip, switch to carrots and hummus (or carrots and ketchup) for a crunchy, healthy alternative.
- Cucumber – this can do double duty as a vessel for dip, as well as a crunchy salad topper. It’s low calorie and a good source of vitamins.
Although low-carb diets are popular right now, healthy grains are an important part of a balanced diet.
- Brown Rice – a staple around the world, brown rice has plenty of fiber, Vitamin B1, and magnesium. It’s a great way to fill up with relatively low calories.
- Oats – perfect to start your breakfast, oats have fibers called beta-glucans, essential for heart health. Oats are also a great neutral vessel for your healthy fruits and berries.
- Quinoa – this is a plant-based protein, great for either a hot side dish or a cold vegetable compound salad. It has plenty of fiber, Vitamin B, and magnesium.
- Ezekial Bread – this bread is a great alternative for those who love toast or sandwiches. It’s full of sprouted grains, as well as seed legumes.