Healthy foods don’t have to be boring. Even if you can’t eat one more piece of salad or grain of brown rice, you can still eat a nutritious diet.
The key is variety and quality. The more types of foods you can find that are better for you, the more you’ll keep eating a wholesome diet.
First, we want to define healthy food. Then, we have a list of 11 surprisingly scrumptious, healthy and beneficial foods that can help you curb cravings.
What is considered a healthy food?
You may have heard of superfoods, such as berries, certain fishes, leafy greens and nuts that are filled with important nutrients. These are considered whole foods without any added ingredients.
Besides being loaded with nutrients, what else makes a food healthy to eat? When you look for canned, frozen or other types of packaged foods, here’s a list of what to look for on labels:
- Low or no added sugars
- No trans fats
- Low in salt/sodium
- Low in saturated fat
- High in fiber
You may have also heard the saying that “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.” That is only half true. Many long and complex words on food labels can be undesired ingredients. But they may also be long words for certain essential vitamins.
Can I mix healthy and not-so-healthy foods in my diet?
Eating a healthy diet means balancing the foods you eat. You can eat foods that are high in calories, fat or sugar once in a while if you focus more on eating healthier foods. There’s no need to give up your favorites. Simply eat them less often, in smaller amounts and mixed with whole foods.
For example, add berries to cold cereal, sprinkle nuts over a small amount of ice cream, slather peanut butter on a banana or bake with less butter.
11 surprisingly healthy foods
By now, you may be wondering what exciting healthy foods you can add to your diet. Here is a list of delicious foods and why they’re considered healthy to eat:
- Avocados have many nutritional benefits for your heart, eyes, bones, digestion and mental health. The fruit has high levels of fiber, folate, vitamin K and antioxidants. It also contains a natural plant sterol that’s important for healthy cholesterol levels.
- Dark chocolate, which is made from cocoa tree seeds, is one of the tastiest sources of antioxidants and may lower your risk of heart disease. Be sure to buy dark chocolate with 70% to 85% cocoa for maximum benefits, but watch for the high calories.
- Dark meat chicken can sometimes be a better healthy choice than white chicken. Dark meat has twice the zinc as light meat, a mineral that helps with wound healing and immunity.
- Frozen vegetables without added salt, butter or cream sauces, have superior nutrients and can be an ideal alternative to less-than-fresh vegetables that may have lost much of their nutritional value.
- Goat cheese is packed with beneficial fats, protein, vitamins and minerals, many of which contribute to healthy bones.
- Greek yogurt is jammed with protein — a half cup may have as much 18 grams, but watch out for flavored yogurt with added sugars.
- Pasta has an undeserved bad reputation for empty calories and carbohydrates. But whole grain or bean-based pasta has more filling fiber, less calories and less carbohydrates than white pasta.
- Peanut butter, eaten in small amounts, contains protein and magnesium, which can help manage blood sugar and body weight.
- Popcorn that is air-popped and lightly salted (and no sugar) has ample fiber and low calories. It’s also a source of the antioxidant polyphenol, which helps blood circulation and digestive health.
- Pork, specifically lean cuts like tenderloin, loin chops and sirloin roast, are high in protein, low in fat and contain more B vitamins than other meats.
- Wild rice is higher in protein than other rice and contains important nutrients and antioxidants that improve heart health and can help lower your risk of diabetes.
Learn about the clinical nutrition and dietetics services we offer at Mercy Health.