Sure, you may have been warned to stop chewing the fat because it could blow your diet. You may have thought you’d have to give up chocolate chip cookies and cake for life for the same reason, but wait! I’ve got new information to help you banish the guilt and start living again. The fact is you don’t have to give up the foods you enjoy to live your best life. Furthermore, some of the foods that you may have avoided could be the very ones that give you the nutritional help you need. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is about making smart choices that work for you and your real life – just as you are. So don’t fret: I’ve got you covered!
Here are my top picks for guilty foods with real health benefits:
1. Choose Full-Fat Salad Dressings vs. Fat-Free Versions
Choose full-fat oil-based salad dressings, such as those made with extra-virgin olive oil. The rich omega-3 fatty acids in the oil combined with the leafy greens in your salad can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and even rheumatoid arthritis. You also need the fat to help your body absorb antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K. Many of which are found in the same veggies contained in your salad. Now remember – the dressing to opt for is oil-based, never creamy.
2. Have Greater Egg-Spectations
Enough of the egg-white omelet mantra already! Throwing out the egg yolk is the nutritional equivalent of throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater! The truth is the egg’s yolk is it’s nutritional epicenter. Yolks are where the bulk of the nutrients in eggs are found – loaded with minerals, including calcium and magnesium (both lacking in women), and full of B-vitamins folate and vitamin B6, and vitamins A and E. What’s more, egg yolks provide 100% of the carotenoids essential for healthy eyes, specifically protecting against age-related macular degeneration. They are loaded with so many nutrients and antioxidants that some scientists suggest a few eggs a day could provide a bigger health insurance policy than a multivitamin.
3. Eat More Avocados
They’re probably on your “fat foods” list, but did you know that avocados are rich in mono-unsaturated fats that have compounds to protect against cancer? In fact, they’re loaded with antioxidants lutein, vitamin E and beta-carotene, helping your body to better absorb phytochemicals from other foods for better health. Add an avocado to salads and side dishes, home-made juicing recipes, spread some on a sandwich in place of mayo or add slices with sliced tomato, mushrooms, and red onion. Be creative, but put avocado back on the grocery list. Your body will thank you later.
4. Have Dessert with Breakfast
Before you go on a doughnut run, allow me to explain. By eating a high-protein breakfast that includes carbs and a small serving of a treat – such as a small doughnut, slice of cake, or cookies – you’ll actually remain full longer. The protein prevents hunger, while the addition of the treat keeps you satiated, in effect, cutting cravings and helping you stick to your plan all day. The trick is to eat your treat at breakfast. It actually helps you ward-off cravings for sweet, fatty foods throughout the day. Remember the satiety factor?
Now the operative word here is PLAN. That means if your diet budget is 1,200 calorie/day you must divide your calories according to the plan and the treat is not daily. But, on those days when you feel like you’re “just gonna die” (I sometimes get this from my patients), you can include your small treat.
Background: Based on a study from a group of researchers at the Tel-Aviv University Medical Center, two groups of dieters who ate low-carb, high-protein breakfasts lost weight. The men of the study received 1,600 calories/day while women ate 1,400 calories a day. Both diets included tuna, egg whites, cheese and low-fat milk for protein. After 4 months of dieting the group whose breakfasts included, you guessed it, a small dessert (chocolate, cake, doughnut, or cookie) continued to lose 22 more pounds than the group who didn’t have dessert.
5. Eat More Peanut Butter
Nuts and nut butters get a bad rep because of their high-fat content, but cutting out a food or food group is often tantamount to cutting off your nose to spite your face. In this case, peanuts are not an indulgence, they are a part of a healthy diet. Studies show that peanuts can lower your risk of heart disease. And, peanuts and peanut butter have been linked to lower cholesterol levels and triglycerides, also related to heart disease prevention. So go on, slather a little peanut butter on a granny smith apple and chomp away to your heart’s content!
6. Eat More Mushrooms
Mushrooms are too often overlooked because they’re misunderstood. Often thought of as low-calorie nutritional “do-nothings,” mushrooms are actually packed with compounds that boost your immune system! In fact, these compounds are also capable of suppressing breast and prostate cancer tumor size. Mushrooms, though 90% water and only 18 calories a cup, pack a good amount of blood-pressure lowering potassium, too. One medium portabella mushroom has more potassium than a serving of orange juice. Five button mushrooms contain more potassium than a small orange so eat up! Sautee them in olive oil and white wine with herbs, add them to lean meats, stir-fries, veggies, casseroles and meat sauces.
Now that I’ve hopefully piqued your interest in getting some life back, let these tips marinate a little and use them to stoke the fires of your heart’s desire in the diet department. Bon appetit!
Dr. Ro's Watermelon Vinaigrette
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 tbsp white balsamic vinaigrette
1 cup watermelon chunks (crushed), or substitute your favorite fruit!
Whisk together olive oil and vinaigrette. Pour over fruit and toss salad.
For a tasty and uber-nutritious salad, add 1 cup watermelon chunks to washed, mixed leafy greens, cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced avocado and blue cheese-stuffed olives