You are what you eat, so the saying goes. Elaine Piasecki, MS, RD, LDN, CDOE, clinical nutrition counselor at the Care New England Wellness Center, couldn't agree more, saying, "To be fit and healthy, you need to eat good foods."
For example, a diet high in saturated and trans fats can raise LDL "bad" cholesterol levels. By replacing saturated fat with a healthier type of fat, such as monounsaturated fats (in olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and avocados), you can reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
Foods fuel our bodies. In fact, cells require good nutrition to function. Foods play a major role in our weight, too. "To maintain a healthy weight, it's important to balance what we eat with physical activity," Piasecki says.
Ideal breakfast foods
What are some good food choices to start the day? The perfect breakfast balances complex carbohydrates and protein. "Including protein and fiber with meals and snacks help keep you feeling satisfied rather than hungry," Piasecki says.
- Greek yogurt with fruit and a serving of whole-grain cereal
- Scrambled eggs with low-fat cheese in a whole-grain wrap
- Whole-grain English muffin or waffle with natural peanut butter or almond butter
- Oatmeal with low-fat milk and almonds or walnuts
- Egg whites and whole-grain toast
- Fruit, low-fat cheese, and nuts
Ideal lunch and dinner foods
Lunch and dinner should include foods that are lean, high in fiber, and packed with nutrients. "Try to include foods from all food groups to achieve a good balance of nutrients," Piasecki says. "Have vegetables cover half of your plate; they will help you feel full with fewer calories."
- Grilled chicken or turkey on whole-grain bread with lettuce, tomato and a slice of avocado
- A salad with grilled chicken or tuna; make a salad dressing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- Homemade vegetable soup with a sandwich
- Grilled or baked salmon, a sweet potato, and a vegetable
- Thin, whole-grain crust pizza with vegetable toppings and low-fat mozzarella cheese and a salad
- Bean chili with brown rice and a side of vegetables
- Stuffed pepper with whole-grain rice and lean beef or ground turkey
- Add a serving of fruit for additional fiber.
Some great food choices people often overlook include different grains, such as quinoa, wheat berry, or couscous; sweet potatoes; and fresh beets (which taste great roasted).
Adding a healthy snack between meals will give you energy and help you avoid hunger and overeating at the next meal, Piasecki says.
- Fruit and Greek yogurt
- Low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers or fruit
- Carrots or other raw vegetables with hummus
- Banana or apple with peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon of peanuts and two tablespoons of dried cranberries
Most desserts are often high in fat and calories, Piasecki says. Some better choices are low-fat frozen yogurt, a fruit cup, sorbet, or angel food cake with fruit.
"If it is a richer dessert, then a mini portion or sharing a dessert would be the best way to control calories," she says
While water is best, some low-calorie beverages are sparkling water, sugar-free iced tea or lemonade, plain tea, and black coffee.