10 Food Staples Every Meal Prepper Should Keep Stocked

Healthy eating is so much easier when you go into the week with a fridge full of prepped meals. Spur-of-the-moment fast food run for lunch? Nope!

“I think that prepping your food ahead of time, if you could, really helps to set the tone for the week,” says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., nutrition consultant and author of The Small Change Diet. “It takes a lot of the guess work out of what to eat and makes it so much easier to stay on track.”

With a few staple foods on hand you can throw together an easy, nutritious meal even when you don’t make it to the grocery store. Gans recommends a winning combo of one-quarter whole grains, one-quarter protein, and one-half vegetables.

Stock up on these shelf-stable and frozen food staples for your next meal prep marathon.

frozen peas

Though they are delicious when they’re fresh, peas are frozen at their peak flavor and nutritional value, so once thawed they have every ounce of goodness the grocery store kind has, says Gans.

A cup of these green goodies packs an unexpected six grams of protein and five grams of fiber. Gans recommends tossing them into a pasta sauce or into salad greens for extra flavor and nutrients.

frozen edamame

With about 19 grams of protein and five grams of fiber per cup, soybeans can be appreciated by vegetarians and meat-lovers alike. They make a great addition to stir fries and can easily be tossed in with other chopped veggies.

Related: 9 Protein Sources For Vegetarians

nuts

When a salad or veggie dish feels a bit bland, Gans likes to jazz up the texture by adding nuts. Plus, they often bring some extra protein and healthy fats to the meal. Almonds, for example, contain six grams of protein and 15 grams of unsaturated fat per quarter-cup serving. Try sprinkling slivered almonds over your next string bean dish or side salad.

whole wheat pasta

Yes, pasta can totally be a part of your meal prep! Gans recommends brands that make 100-percent whole-grain pastas. One cup of your average whole-wheat penne pasta provides nine grams of protein and six grams of fiber (more than you’ll find in most conventional pastas) and can help you feel satisfied after your meal, says Gans. Plus, many whole-grain pastas are fortified with B vitamins.

Since grains take longer to cook, they’re definitely worth prepping in bulk once a week and stashing in the fridge. In the warmer months, Gans likes to whip up a cold pasta salad by mixing veggies and beans or pulses into her pasta.

quinoa

This seed is one of our meal prep faves, because it creates the perfect canvas for tons of flavor and food combinations. Plus one cooked cup contains eight grams of protein and five grains of fiber.

Cook your quinoa in vegetable broth to bump up the flavor, recommends Gans. Then, mix in peas and mushrooms along with your favorite spices for a satisfying veggie-packed side.

canned beans copy

Beans are a great, shelf-stable source of plant-based protein—and with so many varieties of beans out there, you’ll never get bored! A cup of black beans offers about 15 grams of protein and 17 (woah!) grams of fiber. Meanwhile, a cup of chickpeas packs about 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber.

Mix a cup of your favorite beans in with corn, chopped red onion, and tomatoes, for a fresh and filling salad.

oil

Okay, this may not be a veggie, whole-grain, or protein source, but oil is still a power player when you’re prepping meals. You’ll need oil for stir fries, dressings (what would cold pasta salad be without it?!), and cooking veggies and protein.

Go for olive oil or almond oil, which contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, says Gans. Just keep in mind that a tablespoon of these oils contains around 14 grams of fat, so avoid getting too heavy-handed with your pour.

canned tuna

Need protein in a pinch? Say hello to canned tuna. After all, just three ounces pack 20 grams of protein. You can easily toss tuna into a pasta or veggie salad, or quinoa-based dish for a quick, well-rounded meal.

Related: 9 Ways To Take Canned Tuna To The Next Level

frozen meat

Stash some frozen chicken or lean beef in the freezer and you’ll be set on protein when you don’t feel like hitting the grocery store. Just defrost the meat in the fridge 24 hours before meal prepping or pop the meat in the microwave when you’re ready to go.

Pair a serving of lean meat with veggies and a whole-grain, or throw them on top of a salad, says Gans.

frozen seafood

To keep your meals interesting, store frozen seafood alongside the other proteins in your freezer. Three ounces of both shrimp and salmon contain about 17 grams of protein—plus, that salmon packs between 1,500 and 2,000 milligrams of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Mix shrimp into a veggie and quinoa stir fry or serve your salmon over greens or alongside whole grains and veggies, Gans recommends.

Related: Shop a wide selection of ingredients for a healthier kitchen.

8 Surprising Sources Of Protein

When it comes to lean protein, we immediately think of chicken breast. But luckily for your taste buds, protein is found in tons of other foods, too.

We know you know protein is important—but just in case you need a quick refresher, here’s why: “Protein is required for most of our bodily functions, including metabolizing food, building muscle, exercising, producing essential hormones like insulin and glucogen, ensuring healthy skin, and transporting oxygen,” says Angel Planells, M.S., R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

You may need anywhere from 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight depending on your age and activity level, says Planells. (Find out your exact protein needs here.)

Try one of these surprising protein sources to pump up the amount of protein you get out of your next meal.

pumpkin seeds
With about nine grams of protein in a quarter-cup, this grab-and-go snack is a delicious way to bump up your protein intake. Laura Baum, R.D., M.Sc.F.N., loves to sprinkle pumpkin seeds over a bowl of Greek yogurt, mix them into a trail mix with other plain roasted nuts, or add them to rice dishes. They make a great crunchy addition to any dish, but we’d eat them straight out of the bag, too.

quinoa vector
This seed (yes, it’s a seed!) contains all nine essential amino acids, earning it the title of ‘complete protein,’ which we usually associate with animal proteins, says Planells.

Quick refresher: We break the protein we eat down into amino acids, explains Rachel Begun, M.S., R.D.N. Our bodies produce some aminos, but we can only get the nine essential aminos from food. It’s important to get all nine so that our body can build the proteins that form our muscles, hair, skin, and more.

One cooked cup of this fluffy, grain-like stuff packs eight grams of protein. Quinoa will absorb just about any flavor you cook it in, so it’s a great substitute for rice in stir-fries. Baum also likes to mix it into Greek salads or with steamed veggies for a side dish.

tuna
Are you giving this animal protein the love it deserves? With less fat than many other animal proteins and a dose of omega-3 fatty acids (which support heart health—specifically our blood pressure and arteries), tuna packs 20 grams of protein per three-ounce serving. Planells recommends incorporating seafood into your daily grub two-to-three times per week. One of his favorite protein-packed snacks: a serving of tuna spread on whole-grain crackers.

Related: 9 Ways To Take Canned Tuna To The Next Level

cottage cheese
Yeah, you already know Greek yogurt is chock-full of protein, but it’s not the only dairy food that should be on your radar. Half a cup of cottage cheese offers 12 grams of protein and is the perfect canvas for both sweet and savory snacks. Go for a sweet version by adding fruit, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a spoonful of flaxseed—or try a savory variety by adding chopped veggies, salt, and pepper, recommends Planells. If you’re feeling really creative, you can even mix cottage cheese into your favorite pancake mix, says Baum.

spinach
When it comes to veggies and protein, spinach gets the gold medal with six grams of protein in a cup, says Begun. Plus, Popeye’s go-to food also provides minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium.

When you mix and match spinach with other veggies, the protein can really add up, says Begun. A medium white potato, a cup of broccoli, and a cup of Brussels sprouts all contain four grams of your muscles’ favorite macronutrient.

nut butter
We all loved a good PB&J as kids, and we haven’t grown out of our nut butter obsession! Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain seven grains of protein, and pair perfectly with other protein sources, like Greek yogurt, whole-grain bread, or oatmeal, says Begun.

If peanuts aren’t your thing, or if you just want to expand your nut butter horizons, two tablespoons of almond butter also contain about seven grams of protein. Score!

soy
Soy is the sweetheart protein source of vegetarians and vegans everywhere for good reason: It’s another rare plant-based ‘complete protein,’ containing all nine essential amino acids.

Tofu packs about 10 grams of protein per cup, but it’s not your only option. Tempeh, which is made from fermented tofu, offers about 20 grams of protein per cup, says Planells.

You can always go for soybeans in their original form, known as ‘edamame,’ too. One cup of cooked edamame provides 18 grams of protein and makes a great addition to a stir fry or salad, says Begun. They also happen to pack nine grams of fiber.

Related: 7 Protein Sources For Vegetarians

lentils

Half a cup of cooked lentils offers nine grams of protein—more than a cup of milk, a serving of cheddar cheese, or an egg, says Planells. He likes to mix one cup of lentils with an egg and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese for a breakfast that packs 17 grams of protein.

For a fun and protein-rich meal, Baum recommends making stuffed peppers or eggplant with a mixture of rice and lentils. (If you’re not into lentils, Baum recommends going for other beans, like kidney beans, which pack eight grams of protein per cup.)

Related: When in doubt, there’s always a protein supp.

Pin this handy infographic to pack your diet with a variety of protein sources: 

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8 Breakfasts That Pack Between 20 And 30 Grams Of Protein

It’s old news: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But are you building yourself the best morning meal for your health—and waistline? One major key to a successful breakfast: protein.

Though we all need different amounts of protein throughout the day (depending on size and activity level), you want to make sure it’s a part of every meal, says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N. “Protein is crucial for repairing and building muscle,” she says. The sweet spot: about 20 grams of protein per meal. This much will help your body maintain muscle mass without going overboard, since, according to Harris-Pincus, your body may store anything beyond 30 grams of protein as fat instead.

Hit that sweet spot with these eight nutritionist-approved breakfasts.

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photo: Lauren Harris-Pincus
  1. Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Overnight Oats

One of Harris-Pincus’ favorite breakfasts is overnight oats because they’re easy to make in advance. With 23 grams of protein, eight grams of fiber, and antioxidants from the cocoa powder, her chocolate-covered strawberry overnight oats will keep you full ‘til lunchtime.

You’ll Need:
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ scoop chocolate protein powder
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 packet preferred sweetener
1/3 cup unsweetened preferred milk
1/3 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 tsp mini chocolate chips

Stir together the oats, protein powder, cocoa powder, and sweetener in a container. Add the milk, stir, then add the yogurt and stir. Mix in most of the strawberries, then top with chocolate chips and remaining strawberries. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy in the morning.

Related: 8 Overnight Oats Recipes That Make Breakfast Taste Like Dessert

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photo: Lauren Harris-Pincus
  1. Toasted Coconut Wild Blueberry Smoothie Bowl

This smoothie bowl has a little secret: It packs 14 grams of fiber (thank you, coconut flour!), helping you stay fuller longer. Not to mention it contains 27 grams of protein.

You’ll Need:
1 Tbsp toasted, unsweetened coconut flakes
½ cup preferred milk
1 tsp chia seeds
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 packet preferred sweetener
2 Tbsp coconut flour
1 cup frozen blueberries
½ cup ice

Add all ingredients except the toasted coconut to a blender. Blend until smooth and pour into a bowl, then top with toasted coconut.

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photo: Lauren Harris-Pincus
  1. Protein-Packed Chocolate Cereal Bowl

Cereal has been a breakfast favorite since we were kids, but typically lacks protein and leaves us hungry and wanting yet another bowl within the hour. This protein-packed cereal bowl will have you slurping up every drop of milk—and also happens to pack 22 grams of protein. Harris-Pincus recommends choosing a high-fiber cereal that adds a lot of volume—but not calories—to your morning meal. Mix up the protein powder flavor, fruit, and type of cereal for a dozen breakfast combos.

You’ll Need:
1 cup toasted oat cereal
½ cup high-fiber cereal
¾ cup preferred milk
3 Tbsp chocolate protein powder
1 cup sliced strawberries

Add cereal and strawberries to a bowl. Whisk protein powder into milk until dissolved, then pour over cereal and strawberries.

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photo: Rachael Hartley
  1. Smoked Salmon And Goat Cheese Frittata

Bake this bad boy at the beginning of the week and serve up a slice every morning for a high-protein breakfast. Rachael Hartley, R.D., L.D., C.D.E., C.L.T., loves this frittata because it incorporates fish (a great lean protein) into her morning meal. With 25 grams of protein per serving, this isn’t your average ‘ole egg breakfast.

You’ll Need:
10 eggs
½ cup preferred unsweetened milk
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup sliced scallions
1 chopped tomato
4 oz. chopped smoked salmon
2 Tbsp of chopped dill
2 Tbsp of capers
3 oz.  crumbled goat cheese

Beat eggs and milk until well-combined and then season with salt and pepper. Preheat broiler. Heat olive oil in a large, oven safe skillet on medium heat and sauté scallions for one minute. Add tomato and cook for three minutes. Then add smoked salmon, cooking for 30 seconds, and pour in egg mixture, dill, and capers. Stir until combined and cook five to seven minutes until mostly set. Top with a sprinkle of goat cheese and broil in the oven for one minute. Serve hot or cold.

enchiladas
photo: Rachael Hartley
  1. Breakfast Enchiladas

Move over, huevos rancheros. This healthy breakfast is a Mexican food-lover’s dream come true.

“Beans are a great vegetarian source of protein to include at breakfast,” says Hartley. These breakfast enchiladas pack about 25 grams of protein per serving from the beans, corn tortillas, and eggs. Plus, sweet potatoes add extra fiber and antioxidants.

You’ll Need:
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 sweet potatoes, chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
2 tsp of chili powder
1 can black beans, drained
6 beaten eggs
12 corn tortillas
12 oz. jar salsa verde
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add sweet potatoes and sauté for five minutes, or until browned. Add onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and chili powder, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Remove mixture from pan, place in a large bowl, and add beans to the bowl. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in the skillet and add eggs. Scramble and stir in potato mixture. Pour a half-cup of the salsa verde into a large baking sheet. Spoon a half-cup cup of the egg-potato mixture into corn tortillas, roll, and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat for the rest of the tortillas and egg mixture. Top with remaining salsa verde and feta cheese. Bake 20 minutes.

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photo: Tori Schmitt
  1. Blueberry Cream Smoothie

This vegan, gluten-free, high-protein smoothie packs 23 grams of drinkable protein. According to Tori Schmitt, M.S., R.D.N., L.D., this breakfast helps kickstart your morning by providing a balance of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. The dates add a subtle natural sweetness and the cauliflower adds a sneaky serving of vegetables.

You’ll Need:
1 cup unsweetened preferred milk
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 tsp kale powder or 1 handful fresh kale
1 cup frozen blueberries and strawberries
1 pitted date
3 cauliflower florets
1 tsp chia seeds

Add milk, protein powder, kale, date, frozen mixed berries, and cauliflower to a blender. Blend for two to four minutes and add ice until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Pour into a glass and top with chia seeds.

Scrambled Eggs and Vegetables on weathered wood
photo: iStock
  1. Broccoli And Egg Scramble

These flavorful morning eggs pack 20 grams of protein, plus an extra kick of unsaturated fatty acids for sustained energy from the avocado, and fiber from the broccoli, says Schmitt. Quick, easy, and packed with produce.

You’ll Need:
½ cup broccoli
2 eggs
2 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 medium avocado
1 cup raspberries

Sauté the broccoli in a skillet, add eggs, and scramble. Once cooked, remove from pan and top with the shredded cheese and avocado. Serve with a side of raspberries.

healthy breakfast with yogurt, muesli and berries
photo: iStock
  1. Cottage Cheese Bowl

The pili nut (a native of the Philippines that you can find in many health food stores) is one of Schmitt’s favorite ways to add protein to a snack or meal. This nut, cottage cheese, and fruit combo provides 20 grams of protein, plus healthy fats and magnesium.

You’ll Need:
¾ cup cottage cheese
½ cup green grapes, halved
2 Tbsp of pili nuts
Dash of cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and top with cinnamon.

Related: Find oils, seasonings, sweeteners, and more to help you whip up healthy meals.

How To Make The Best Smoothie For Your Goals

We love a good smoothie, but not all blends are created equal. In order to make these liquid snacks work for your personal health and fitness goals, you may need to switch up the ingredients you throw into the blender.

First things first, you want your smoothie to provide a balance of four things: nutrient-dense carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats, and plenty of fiber, says Wesley Delbridge R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. From there, a few tweaks will help you whip up your perfect drink.

Whether you’re looking to bulk up or shed a few pounds, these nutritionist-backed guidelines can help you make you a smart smoothie next time you reach for the blender.

Goal: Weight Management

If you’re trying to shed pounds, calorie control is the name of the game. While the body needs carbohydrates for energy, cutting down on the carbs and fat in your shake can keep its calories in check to support weight loss. Making sure your shake packs plenty of protein, though, helps you maintain and build muscle while cutting calories, says Jim White, R.D., founder of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios.

Unsweetened almond milk makes a great base for a weight loss-friendly shake because it’s low in calories, White says. (One cup has 39 calories.) He recommends blending it up with whey protein powder—one scoop for women and two scoops for men. This blended snack comes in somewhere around 150 to 200 calories, keeps carbohydrates low, and packs on the protein.

Related: This Is The Best Cardio Workout For Weight Loss

Goal: Meal Replacement

On super-busy days, sitting down for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) just isn’t in the cards. Smoothie to the rescue!

If your blend is replacing a meal, White recommends women shoot for a 400-calorie drink while men go for a 500-calorie drink. When building your meal replacement smoothie, be sure to incorporate protein, carbohydrates, and fat before blending for a nutritionally-balanced result.

Start with a base of six to eight ounces of coconut milk and add the following: dry oats (a quarter-cup for women and half-cup for guys), one cup Greek yogurt, three quarters-cup berries, and a tablespoon of chia seeds. The berries knock out a serving of fruit, the oats provide fiber-filled carbs, the yogurt provides protein, and chia seeds add essential fatty acids. Now that’s a balanced, busy day-friendly meal.

Goal: Muscle-Building Or ‘Bulking’

In the fitness world, protein and muscle gains go together like peanut butter and jelly. While the average person needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day, athletes who are really working their muscles hard may need up to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram, says Delbridge. (That’s roughly 0.36 grams per pound for the average person and 0.64 grams per pound for someone stressing their muscles big time.)

White recommends muscle-making smoothies that have a ratio of one part protein to two parts carbohydrate. If bulking up is your goal, you need carbs after a lifting session to restore the glycogen in your muscles, in addition to needing protein to help them rebuild and grow. Mix one cup of skim milk (nine grams of protein and 13 grams of carbs) with a scoop of whey protein (about 20 grams of protein). Then add a medium banana for two full servings of fruit and 27 grams of carbohydrates. That gives you a prime post-workout shake consisting of 316 calories, 41 grams of carbs, and 30 grams of protein.

Related: Find the flavor of protein powder you’ll look forward to every time.

Goal: Endurance Exercise and Performance

If you’re training for a distance-racing event, or are just trying to run or cycle farther, smoothies can be a great way to fuel your body for the long haul. For this, you’ll need higher amounts of nutrient-dense carbs for long-lasting energy, says Delbridge. Oh yeah, there are bananas and oats in your future.

White recommends starting with a base of unsweetened almond milk and adding the following: a half-cup to one cup dried oats, half a frozen banana, a handful of spinach, and a full orange. This shake uses whole food sources to jack up the carbs (upward of 100 grams) and provides some protein from the oats and spinach to promote recovery post-workout, he says.

Save this handy infographic for the perfect smoothie instructions, whenever you’re craving a blend: 

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The 5 Best Nighttime Snacks If You’re Trying To Lose Weight

Anyone who gets hit with a late-night snack attack probably worries a little bit about eating after dinner—especially if they’re trying to lose weight. But have no fear! Nighttime snacks can be a completely healthy addition to your daily diet.

Just consider a few simple guidelines: First, ask yourself why you want to eat. “Are you snacking because you feel hungry or because you are bored or watching TV?” says Melissa Prest, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.R., L.D.N. Give your dinner about an hour to digest and then check in with your motives before scavenging through the fridge.

When you do snack, it’s all about keeping your kitchen stocked with healthy bites, so you’re not left aimlessly staring into the refrigerator (and reaching for unhealthy choices) before bed. “Plan snacks just like you plan other meals,” says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook. Plan out your full day of meals (snacks, too!) at least a day or so in advance to keep healthy eating on track, Newgent says.

A weight loss-friendly snack should include a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber, and come in between 100 to 200 calories, says Angel Planells, M.S. R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A combination of macronutrients helps you feel fuller from smaller portions—and that’s because the protein and fiber fills you up and helps to lessen the impact carbs have on your blood sugar, he explains. Just don’t eat within an hour of hitting the hay, or you may be in for some digestive upset overnight, adds Newgent.

These five dietitian-approved snacks are perfect options for your next nighttime nosh:

cherries pistachios article

  1. Trail Mix

For a sweet and salty combo, try an easy mix of dried fruit and nuts. Dried tart cherries with pistachios or raisins with peanuts are two quick and easy combos, says Newgent.

“The combination of protein and fiber in this snack duo is notably satiating,” she says. Half an ounce of pistachios (about 25 kernels) contains 81 calories and almost three grams of protein. Pair that a quarter cup of unsweetened dried cherries (65 calories) for a snack that totals 146 calories.

fruit smoothie article

  1. Fruit Smoothie

Blend half a very ripe mango (or half a cup of any fruit you like), three quarters of a cup of plain Greek yogurt, water, and ice for a delicious, probiotic-packed drink, recommends Newgent. The mango has about 100 calories and the yogurt adds 75 calories to the mix.

If you’re not feeling an icy beverage, mix the fruit into a bowl of plain yogurt instead. Prest also likes adding a tablespoon of hemp or chia seeds to her yogurt bowl for a boost of plant-based protein and fiber.

Related: Give your next smoothie a boost with a scoop of protein powder.

veggies hummus article

  1. Veggies and Bean Dip

Newgent loves this pick because it’s a delicious source of plant-based nutrients and soluble fiber. With just 50 calories in two tablespoons of hummus and another 50 in a cup of carrot sticks, this snack is an easy, low-calorie option. Just portion out your hummus and put the container away!

apple nut butter article

  1. Apple and Nut Butter

Prest recommends an apple with one tablespoon of nut butter for a mix of carbs, protein, and fat that comes in around 150 calories. A tablespoon of unsalted peanut butter contains almost four grams of protein and eight grams of unsaturated fat.

popcorn article

  1. Popcorn

If you’re looking for something salty, swap the greasy chips for three cups of air-popped popcorn, says Prest. You can even top it with sea salt or nutritional yeast seasoning for some extra flavor. Nutritional yeast is used as a cheese replacement in lots of vegan diets and packs lots of B vitamins and some protein.

You can snack on a full three cups of air-popped popcorn for just 92 calories, with that sprinkle of a tablespoon of nutritional yeast adding three grams of protein for just 20 calories.

Related: Check out the Snack Zone for a variety of ready-to-eat, health-conscious foods.

Pin this handy infographic and never stare aimlessly into the fridge at night again: 

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Eating Cholesterol Might Not Be Such A Bad Thing

Many of us grew up thinking cholesterol = bad. Eat a lot of cholesterol, end up with high cholesterol, right? Well, that might not be the case.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines once capped daily cholesterol consumption at 300 milligrams, but dropped the limit recommendation in 2015, stating that “available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol” and that “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

Recent research has found that the cholesterol we consume may not be as big of a heart health risk as we once thought, says Tori Schmitt, M.S., R.D.N., L.D., founder of YES! Nutrition. “For many people, when they eat cholesterol, their body accommodates by producing less,” says Schmitt. (Yep, your body makes cholesterol!)

But what does the stuff even do? Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is the starting point for making cells and steroid hormones (like sex and adrenal hormones) in the body, says Rachel Begun, M.S., R.D.N. It also plays a role in vitamin D synthesis and digestion.

Cholesterol is transported throughout the body by two different kinds of lipoproteins: Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol from the liver throughout the body and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) carry the cholesterol back to the liver, Begun says.

LDL cholesterol can contribute to plaque buildup in the blood, which is why it’s known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol, Begun explains. “Generally, the lower your LDL and the higher your HDL, the better your odds for preventing cardiovascular disease,” she says.

The sticky substance is found in the cell membrane of animal cells, so foods high in cholesterol are animal-based foods like meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, and milk, says Schmitt. Nope, you won’t find cholesterol in plants!

Just don’t consider the recent research an invitation to go crazy: One review published in the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology suggested dietary cholesterol generally does not impact blood cholesterol levels or coronary heart disease risk but still cautioned that some people may be more sensitive to cholesterol intake than others.

Even if you don’t need to worry too much about dietary cholesterol affecting your LDL levels on its own, though, certain foods it’s found in contain something you do need to look out for: saturated fats. These fats can increase that ‘bad’ cholesterol and the USDA dietary guidelines still consider them a threat. Monitor your intake of fatty meats and high-fat dairy, and keep saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your daily calories, recommends Schmitt.  

If heart health is a priority (and it should be!) your diet should focus on “fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, plant oils, and moderate amounts of lean animal protein,” says Begun.

When it comes to cholesterol-containing foods that don’t pack much saturated fat, there are a few that deserve a spot on your plate.

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  1. Eggs

One large egg packs on 186 milligrams of cholesterol. (That’s 372 milligrams in two.) We don’t know about you, but we like more than one egg in our morning scramble, and we get that this may feel a little bold, considering that previous 300 milligram limit. But cholesterol or not, eggs are super-nutritious and definitely deserve a spot in your daily grub.

Eggs are quite nutrient-dense, with six grams of protein, 41 IU vitamin D and 270 IU of vitamin A per egg, says Schmitt. She adds that egg yolks also have a nutrient called choline, which helps support fetal brain development during pregnancy.

Related: An Ode To Egg Yolks (Yes, They’re Good For You!)

shrimp

  1. Shellfish

Shellfish, like shrimp, are a delicious way to get lean protein and essential minerals without much saturated fat, says Begun. A three-ounce serving of shrimp, for example, contains about 161 mg of cholesterol and packs 20 grams of protein with only trace amounts of fat.

Not into the little guys? Other varieties of shellfish (like lobster) are also low in fat but high in nutrients.

salmon

  1. Salmon

That salmon filet contains some cholesterol, but also provides a variety of valuable nutrients. A three-ounce fillet of wild salmon contains 43 milligrams of cholesterol, 19 grams of protein, 312 milligrams potassium, and 2158 milligrams of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3s, Schmitt says.

“Salmon’s omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, can support heart health, memory, and cognition,” says Schmitt.

Related: 7 Fatty Foods That Are Good For Your Health

chicken breast

  1. Chicken

Chicken is probably already a staple in your diet. After all, it’s a prime source of lean protein. But did you know it contains some cholesterol, too?

A three-ounce serving of chicken breast contains 52 milligrams of cholesterol, 18 grams of protein, and is a great source of niacin, vitamin B12, and selenium, says Schmitt. Go for lean cuts, like the breast, to keep that saturated fat intake low.

Related: Browse an assortment of supplements to promote heart health. 

What Is Ghee, Really?

Ghee has been around for thousands of years, but it’s recently regained popularity in the health world. (We’re talking coconut oil-level popularity, people.) Let’s start with the basics.

What Is It?

If you’re into Whole30 or the paleo lifestyle, or if you eat a lot of Indian food (in which ghee is often used), you may already be familiar with ghee.

Ghee is clarified butter, essentially. “Ghee is made by slowly melting butter and bringing it to a boil,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Nutrition Starring You. “The water evaporates and milk solids separate and can be strained out, leaving behind a golden liquid that solidifies when cooled.”

Ghee has a much higher smoke point than regular butter, so you can use it as a replacement for refined vegetables oils (like corn, peanut, soybean and canola oil) that are often used for pan-searing or frying, says Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. (Butter will start to smoke around 250 degrees, while these oils don’t smoke until around 350, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. If you prefer butter to oil, using ghee for high-heat cooking is a good way to avoid setting off the smoke detectors…oops.)

Is Ghee Better Than Butter?

While ghee gets love from many health gurus, there’s no research to suggest any noteworthy benefits of ghee, says White.

Nutritionally, ghee is a more concentrated source of fat because the milk solids and water found in unclarified butter have been removed, White explains.

A teaspoon of ghee contains 45 calories, five grams of total fat, and three grams of saturated fat, while a teaspoon of butter contains 34 calories, four grams of total fat, and two grams of saturated fat.

“Since ghee is a source of saturated fat, it should be used in limited quantities,” says White. He warns that too much saturated fat can contribute to weight gain and issues related to heart health, and that it should be limited to less than 10 percent of our daily calories.

Harris-Pincus suggests working with a registered dietitian to manage the saturated fat elsewhere in your diet if you’re interested in incorporating ghee regularly.

A Note On Dairy

Some people believe that ghee is better than butter for those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies because it’s had the milk solids removed. However, ghee is still dairy-derived, so those with milk allergies still need to avoid it, says White. But since butter and ghee are both quite low in lactose, either is generally safe for someone with lactose intolerance, adds Harris-Pincus.

Related: An Ode To Egg Yolks—Yes, You Should Be Eating Them

But ‘Ghee’ Sounds Cool And You Still Want To Use It!

Like any fat, ghee is OK to consume in moderation. Plus, it’s rich, nutty flavor can give your dishes a little more oomph than many other cooking oils. White recommends swapping ghee for refined vegetable oils when frying, stir-frying or sautéing, or adding it fresh herbs and spice rubs for meat or fish.

“Basically anywhere you would use butter, ghee will work,” says Harris-Pincus. “You probably won’t need as much ghee as you would butter since the flavor is a bit more concentrated.”

Just remember that the extra flavor comes with extra calories and fat, so less is more.

Related: Shop a variety of healthy oils.

The Food Pyramid Is Old News—Have You Made These 8 Important Dietary Changes?

To say trends and advice about healthy eating have changed over the past century would be an understatement—since the 40s, the government has put out 10 different official healthy eating guides, including the food pyramid we’re perhaps most familiar with.

Recent updates to the visual guides have no doubt guided Americans down a healthier nutritional path, but it’s been a bumpy ride along the way. For example, the dietary guide in the late ’70s, called the ‘Hassle-Free Daily Food Guide,’ even included alcohol and sweets (in moderation) as part of a healthy diet. Huh.

The USDA released its very first visual food guide in the 1940s, which introduced ‘the basic seven’ food groups—one of which was ‘butter and margarine.’ It lacked portion recommendations and encouraged people to “eat any other foods you want.” Now you see what we mean.

USDA_-_Basic_7_Food_Groups
photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture

It took 40 years and three more versions of the visual dietary guides for the 1984 ‘food wheel’ to provide actual portion and calorie recommendations for its five major food groups. The pie chart still included a sixth sliver for sweets and alcohol.

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Then came a guide you’ve surely seen before: the food pyramid. “The food pyramid was the first to have a total diet approach,” says Wesley Delbridge R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It broke down the number of recommended daily servings for each of six categories (dairy, vegetables, fruit, proteins like meat and beans, carbs like bread and rice, and fats and sugars). This 1992 update was meant to paint a proportionally-accurate picture of what to eat in a day.

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photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture

The food pyramid later transformed into MyPyramid in 2005, which then turned into the current guide, called MyPlate, in 2011. MyPlate breaks foods into four main groups (vegetables, fruit, protein, and grains), plus dairy as a smaller fifth and final group.

This visual goes beyond total daily eats and instead breaks down which foods, and how much of each, to put on your plate at every meal, says Melissa Prest, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.R., L.D.N. Thinking about food choices meal-by-meal makes healthy eating feel more doable, doesn’t it?

myplate_green1
photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture

To make sure your healthy eating efforts are up to date, we rounded up the eight biggest changes between the good ‘ol food pyramid and today’s MyPlate.

  1. Tailor Your Nutrition To Your Needs

The basic MyPlate image doesn’t include serving sizes because the USDA now recommends individualized dietary guidelines, based on age, sex, activity level, and height and weight.

You can easily calculate your personal calorie and serving recommendations at ChooseMyPlate.gov. They also provide an online tool to track your daily food intake and activity.

  1. Say Adios To Excess Fats And Sugars

When the food guide pyramid debuted, one of its most striking changes was the depiction of fats and sugars at the top, representing the smallest part of our daily diet, says Delbridge. This was the first time the government addressed these unhealthy habits and recommended that Americans consume sweets sparingly.

The current MyPlate visual completely eliminates fat and sugar, and its more detailed online resources urge you to limit added fat, sodium, and sugar in every food choice you make.

Related: Is Sugar Really All That Bad For You?

  1. Focus On Fat Quantity And Quality

While fat’s not included on MyPlate, you shouldn’t be avoiding it completely. The guide’s personalized online portion tool allows for between five and seven daily teaspoons of oil for adults, depending on age and sex. It also considers nuts, seeds, and fatty fish part of the ‘protein’ portion of your plate, and avocados and olives as part of the ‘vegetables’ portion.

“The emphasis with fat is more about quality than quantity now,” says Kristen F. Gradney, M.H.A., R.D.N., L.D.N., spokesperson for Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “A recommendation of butter isn’t the same as a recommendation of olive oil, avocado, or nuts.” So, don’t expect butter to ever be its own food group again.
The unsaturated fats in most vegetable and nut oils provide essential nutrients and have a place in a balanced diet, Gradney explains.

Related: 7 Fatty Foods That Are Good For Your Health

  1. Eat Carbohydrates In Moderation

The food pyramid identified breads, cereals, rice, and pasta as the foundation for a healthy diet. It recommended six to eleven servings per day. The MyPlate slashed recommended intake to five to eight daily servings, depending on gender and age.

The MyPlate design includes grains as just a quarter of your plate, reducing the amount of carbs Americans need (and think they need) to consume, says Gradney.

  1. Go For Whole Grains

The food pyramid also treated refined carbs and whole grains equally, says Delbridge. We know better these days: Whole grains contain more fiber than refined grains, helping to keep your blood sugar in check while feeling fuller for longer. This is why whole grains are a healthier choice than refined carbs like pasta.

MyPlate specifically uses the word ‘grains’ instead of the old ‘bread, cereal, rice, and pasta’ to emphasize the importance of the type of carbs we consume. It recommends that at least half of our daily intake comes from whole grains.

Related: How To Eat Carbs And Still Lose Weight

  1. More Fruits And Veggies

Old recommendations suggested Americans eat three to five servings of veggies and two to four servings of fruits per day. Even combined (between five and nine servings), they made up a smaller portion of the proposed daily diet than grains and refined carbs.

MyPlate, though, emphasizes that half your plate should be fruits and vegetables.

“The average American consumes one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetable per day,” says Angel Planells, M.S., R.D.N, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I’ve personally used this data to encourage clients to increase their fruit and vegetable intake.” And rightfully so, considering fruits and veggies are packed with crucial vitamins and nutrients.

  1. Be Picky With Your Proteins

The MyPlate guidelines recommend a wide variety of plant and animal protein sources, from poultry and beans to eggs and nuts. They also suggest consuming at least eight ounces of seafood per week (particularly omega-3-containing fatty fish like salmon), and that any meat or poultry be lean or low-fat.

Additionally, the USDA now also recommends we limit processed meat products, like deli meats, which are often high in sodium, and cooking methods (hello fry-ups!) that add considerable saturated fat to protein

  1. Get Moving

Though there’s no jogging stick figure on the MyPlate graphic (like there was on its predecessor, MyPyramid), its personalized online component tailors your individual nutrition needs based on your activity level, and its tracking tool includes space for you to check off whether you’ve gotten at least two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity each week. This continues to illustrate the importance of physical activity, along with solid nutrition, for a total approach to healthy living.

Check out just how much the USDA visual guides have changed over the years: 

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7 Foods That Can Make You Gassy

We’ve all heard the nursery rhyme about beans being the ‘musical fruit’ (the more you eat—well, you know…) But while beans may be the most notorious gas-producing food, they’re not alone.

Everyone’s gut microbiome (the composition of bacteria that live inside of your body) is unique, explains Niket Sonpal, M.D., of Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, so the foods that trigger major gas buildup can vary from person to person—but we’ve all experienced the feeling.

Often times, the bloating and gas are caused by how well your body is able to digest the foods you consume. If you’re not able to break down the foods completely, then the bacteria in your gut will feed on what is left, causing gas and bloating, says integrative dietitian Robin Foroutan, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Your best bet for beating gas is to use an elimination diet to identify the foods that really inflate you, says Rachel Begin, M.S., R.D.N. You can work with a registered dietitian to cut certain foods from your diet for a set period of time, and reintroduce them one at a time to identify any potential intolerances. From there, your physician can perform a diagnostic test to confirm.

If you’re trying to keep your inner air pressure at a minimum, look out for these seven common gas-causing foods.

  1. Sugar

Some types of sugar are considered FODMAPs (fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharaides and polyols), a group of foods that often cause gas and discomfort, says Sonpal.

Two culprits here are monosaccharaides, like fructose in fruits, and disaccharides, like the sugar in dairy (lactose). “These sugars are converted into carbon dioxide in your gut and can contribute to an overload of gas in your belly,” says Sonpal.

Additionally, sugar alcohols, like sorbitol or maltitol, fall into the ‘polyol’ category of FODMAPs. You’ll find them in diet or calorie-free food products like sugar-free gum or soda—and while they may spare calories, our bodies can’t digest these alternative sweeteners, often leading to gas or stomach upset, like diarrhea, says Sonpal.

Related: 10 Possible Reasons Why You’re Suddenly so Bloated

  1. Certain Vegetables

You know they’re good for you, but some veggies may leave you tooting. Certain veggies, like cauliflower, mushrooms, artichokes, and asparagus, also contain FODMAPs and may be tricky for your gut to process properly. The veggies that create a little extra wind often vary from person to person, says Sonpal.

Fiber may also make you gassy—especially if you eat a lot out of the blue. Insoluble fiber found in cabbage-like vegetables and root vegetables doesn’t break down in the small intestine and ferments in the colon, making it a common culprit, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD).

  1. Legumes & Beans

Like with cabbage and root veggies, beans often blow you up because of their fiber content. “Sometimes the fiber in foods like beans can be difficult to break down completely,” says Foroutan. The IFFGD recommends gradually increasing the fiber in your diet over time to minimize gut-busting gassiness.

Related: 3 Ways To Show Your Tummy Some TLC

  1. Carbonated Beverages

Sparkling water may be a favorite, but it can mess with your gut. “The process of carbonation forms pockets of air in your favorite fizzy drinks that can ultimately contribute to gas or general intestinal discomfort,”says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.

Newgent also warns that many carbonated beverages contain the FODMAP fructose, which may cause major flatulence in some people as it ferments in the colon. Soda and fizzy drinks that involve fruit juice are often loaded with this type of monosaccharide. Instead, try putting lemon slices, orange slices, or strawberries (which have a much lower amount of fructose) in your water if you like to sip on something sweet.

  1. Dairy

 

Plenty of us have experienced threatening stomach grumbles or excess gas after noshing on cheese or ice cream, and that’s because many people don’t produce enough lactase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose. And sadly, we produce less of it as we age, Begin explains. Meanwhile, people with celiac or Crohn’s disease, or who were recently ill or underwent surgery, may also experience worsened lactose intolerance because of possible damage to the small intestine.

Some level of dairy sensitivity is common for many adults, but if you’re truly lactose intolerant, you’ll probably deal with some explosive toilet time in addition to discomfort and gas, says Sonpal. (Many people take the enzyme lactase in supplement form to combat such moments.)

  1. Wheat

Wheat gets a pretty bad rap when it comes to stomach issues, and the trouble boils down to a word you’ve certainly heard before: gluten. (That’s the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley often associated with stomach troubles.)

But let’s clear one thing up: Feeling extra gassy after eating wheat may indicate a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, but doesn’t mean you have celiac disease, explains Sonpal.

In celiac disease (which can be identified with a blood test), the body cannot break down gluten and the immune system reacts by attacking the small intestine and damaging its lining, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. This results not only in loads of GI distress, but diminishes the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, potentially leading to other long-term health issues.

  1. Chewing Gum  

Not only do most sugar-free gums contain sorbitol (a FODMAP), but constant chomping can make you swallow excess air, says Newgent. So in addition to gut bacteria feeding on those undigested sweeteners and releasing gas, your not-so-cute chewing also contributes to the bulge you feel in your belly later on.

7 Fatty Foods That Are Good For Your Health

While digging into a bag of kettle chips or buttery popcorn on the reg won’t do much to level up your nutrition game, that doesn’t mean you should avoid anything and everything F-A-T. Just ask anyone who’s following the ketogenic diet.

Our bodies need energy for fat in order to absorb nutrients [like vitamins A, D, E, and K], and to maintain hormonal balance, explains Karla Moreno-Bryce, M.D.A., R.D., founder of Nutritious Vida.

Of the types of fat out there (saturated fatty acids, unsaturated fatty acids, trans fats, monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and dietary cholesterol), it’s saturated fats and trans fats that give the macronutrient a bad rep. These fats may contribute to higher ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) and lower ‘good’ HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, increasing risk for stroke and diabetes, says Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios.

Saturated and trans fats are mainly found in animal sources like beef, cheese, and dairy, and occasionally in poultry and fish, says White. He warns that trans fats are ultra common in fried and processed foods, because they’re intended to increase shelf life. Some plant sources of saturated fats include coconut oil, palm oil, and kernel oil.

Meanwhile, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are integral to a well-balanced diet, says Moreno-Bryce. According to The American Heart Association, polyunsaturated fats can promote healthy cholesterol levels, and provide essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats and vitamin E. Plus, monounsaturated fats may also be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, says Melissa Prest, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.R., L.D.N. Some food sources of these fats include avocados, nuts, and olive oil.

The USDA 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that up to 35 percent of the average adult’s daily calories come from fat. Saturated fats should be limited to less than 10 percent of daily calories, and trans fats should be avoided as much as possible, says Prest.

So what foods should you add to your grocery list to incorporate more healthy fat into your diet? We’ve compiled a list of dietitian-approved fatty foods to keep your health on point.

Related: 7 Foods And Ingredients Nutritionists Won’t Eat

nuts
Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans are great sources of monounsaturated fats, while walnuts pack polyunsaturated fats, says Prest. She recommends adding a tablespoon or two to salads for a little crunch.

24 almonds contain about 14 grams of fat and make a great snack, according to White. He also likes to mix equal parts almonds, peanuts, seeds, and dried fruit for DIY trail mix. (We’ll talk more about peanuts and seeds later.)

seafood
Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies can’t make on their own, says Prest. Varieties like salmon, herring, and mackerel contain more than 1,500 milligrams per 3-ounce cooked portion. These omega-3s promote heart, brain, and eye health.

White recommends swapping fish like salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, Pacific trout, or mackerel in for your usual meat twice a week. “Eating polyunsaturated fat [that’s fish] in place of saturated fat [think red meat or pork] may lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, which can decrease your risk for heart disease,” he says.

healthy-oils
Some oils can provide both flavor and nutrition to your meals. Prest recommends limiting your use of saturated fat-containing oils like coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil, and going for monounsaturated fat-containing options like peanut or canola oils or polyunsaturated fat-containing oils like sunflower, corn, soybean, or flaxseed oil.

Just don’t get too heavy-handed when cooking or whipping up homemade salad dressing. Healthy oils can still contribute to excess calories, warns White. Remember that a serving of olive oil (we know, it’s delicious) contains about 120 calories. So limit that drizzle!

avocado
Avocado is so much more than an Instagrammable toast topping. First, it’s totally delectable, but more importantly, the average avocado contains 21 grams of monounsaturated fat plus an added bonus of nine grams of fiber.

White recommends spreading a quarter of an avocado on a piece of whole-grain toast for a delicious and healthy breakfast or snack.

If you’re over the #avotoast trend, Moreno-Bryce recommends using avocado in lieu of saturated fats like butter in muffin or brownie mixes. You can either swap butter for avocado in whole or use half avocado-half butter for a healthy boost.

soybeans
Soybeans, which are called edamame in their natural form or tofu or tempeh in block form, pack protein and healthy fat. Moreno-Bryce recommends adding whole soybeans or grilled tofu to your salad to get the benefits. One block of tofu contains 13 grams of polyunsaturated fat and 29 grams of protein.

She also likes to swap mashed soft tofu in for ricotta cheese in pasta dishes to swap saturated fat for polyunsaturated fat.

Related: 7 Protein Sources For Vegetarians

seeds
With so many varieties of crunchy seeds out there, your options for incorporating them into meals are literally endless! Prest recommends topping your salad or veggie dish with some pumpkin or sesame seeds for monounsaturated fats or flax seeds for polyunsaturated fats.

Moreno-Bryce likes adding chia seeds to smoothies and yogurt to add omega-3s, fiber, and protein.

peanuts
Whether you’d rather munch on them whole or as a creamy butter, peanuts are another great source of healthy fats. Prest recommends adding a tablespoon of peanut butter to your morning oatmeal to kickstart your day with 8 grams of polyunsaturated fat.

White likes to use peanut butter in easy-to-make energy bites for a quick boost on the go. Just mix peanut butter, honey, flax seeds, chia seeds, and shredded coconut together, roll into tablespoon-sized balls, and store in the fridge.

Related: What You Need To Know About The Ketogenic Diet Trend

Pin this handy infographic to make sure you’re loading up on the good stuff! 

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5 Foods That Are Packed With Probiotics

Nothing ruins a road trip or night on the town quite like stomach troubles. But good gut health isn’t essential just because gas and diarrhea are inconvenient: Research has identified ties between our GI health and both our immune and metabolic functions. They don’t call the stomach the “second brain” for nothing!

At the core of good gut health lies the importance of a particular type of microorganism: healthy bacteria that live in our intestines called probiotics. These bacteria help us properly digest food, destroy disease-causing microorganisms, and produce vitamins, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. So without them, you could be more prone to stomach struggles.

Much like our overall health, the hundreds of species of bacteria in our gut can be affected by our diet. Certain types of bacteria feed off of dietary fiber, and studies have shown that eating fiber boosts the populations of some probiotics, according to a review published in Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease.

Plus, the prevalence of antibiotics in our lives today—whether prescribed by a doc or in our food—has led many health professionals to encourage consuming more probiotic-rich foods, says Niket Sonpal, M.D., of Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. Over-consuming antibiotics can disrupt the balance within your microbiome, leading to stomach upset, so by consuming probiotics in food or supplement form, we may be able to replenish and re-balance the beneficial bacteria in our gut.

We gathered five of the most probiotic-packed foods so you can load up your shopping cart with that good-for-you bacteria. When searching for them in the grocery store aisles, look for a seal indicating “active live cultures” or check the ingredient list for bacterial strains like bifidobacteria or lactobacillus, says Angel Planells, M.S., R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Related: You can also get a probiotic boost from a supplement.

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This popular, pickled cabbage contains vitamin B6 and iron, and becomes dense with probiotics through fermentation, says Planells. Fermentation is the process by which we preserve foods in salted brine, which allows that good bacteria to flourish. According to Planells, the specific types of bacteria that are able to survive through fermentation depend on temperature, pH, the food’s nutrients, and oxygen supply.

Sauerkraut also contains vitamin C, vitamin K, and some fiber, says Tori Schmitt, M.S., R.D.N., founder of YES! Nutrition, LLC. Schmitt likes to top eggs or avocado with sauerkraut for breakfast, or add it to her favorite sandwiches, salads, and wraps.

miso-soup

Next time you go out for that spicy tuna roll, order a bowl of miso soup to sip on the side. Miso is a paste or seasoning popular in Japanese cuisine that’s made from fermented soybeans.

Or, throw some grilled or marinated tempeh (a block of packed fermented soy somewhat similar to tofu that’s popular in Indonesian cuisine) into soups, pastas, and chili for a smoky, nutty flavor, suggest Planells.

Both tempeh and miso contain probiotics and make great additions to vegetarian meals because they’re considered complete proteins (meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids), plus B vitamins and antioxidants, says Planells. A half of a cup of tempeh packs on 17 grams of proteins and two tablespoons of miso contains 4 grams of protein.

Related: 6 Possible Reasons Why You’re So Gassy

kimchi

Kimchi is a spicy, fermented vegetable popular in Korean cuisine that contains probiotics, antioxidants, and vitamins A, B, and C. The most common probiotic in kimchi is lactobacillus, which survives by feeding off the sugar content of the cabbage and releasing carbon dioxide, says Planells.

Noticing a trend of fermented foods here? Turns out you can ferment just about any fruit or vegetable. Veggies like cauliflower, carrots, jicama, and daikon can all provide probiotics, fiber, vitamins, and minerals when fermented. They make a crunchy addition to a meal and go great with hummus for a healthy snack, says Schmitt.

Try it at home: Bastyr University, known for alternative medicine studies, recommends dissolving 1 TBSP of sea salt into 2 cups of water. Once dissolved, place vegetables with spices of choice into a glass quart jar, leaving 1 inch at the top and ensuring all vegetables are submerged. Cover the jar and keep away from direct sunlight for five days. If the vegetables aren’t to your liking, you can let them ferment another 2 to 3 days for a more sour taste. Once ready, place in fridge for up to two months.

kombucha

Not only can you eat your probiotics, but you can drink them, too. Kombucha, an effervescent fermented tea, is quickly becoming a trendy go-to for probiotics.

Schmitt recommends swapping soda or juices for the healthy, fizzy beverage. Just take a look at the label before you buy a bottle—some varieties may be packed with sugar.

yogurt

When you think of probiotics and food, you probably jump straight to yogurt. That’s because it’s prepared with those live and active cultures (a.k.a. probiotics), says Schmitt.

She recommends going for a strained Greek or Icelandic yogurt, which can pack up to 23 grams of protein per cup. Enjoy it for breakfast with fresh berries and sprinkle on nuts or seeds. Just steer clear of flavored yogurts, which are often loaded with sugar.

Save this handy infographic to that healthy eating Pinterest board:

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8 Foods And Drinks For When You Just Can’t Poop

We remind ourselves every time we feel awkward in the office bathroom: Everyone poops.

But then again, there are times when, well, not everyone can.

We’ve all been backed up at some point. According to the American Gastroenterological Association, constipation is defined by spending time struggling on the toilet, unusually hard number-twos, and/or going fewer than three times in a week.

“Even though most people don’t like to talk about it, regularity is really important for digestive health as well as detoxification,” says Robin Foroutan M.S., R.D.N., H.H.C., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics. So let’s talk about it.

Constipation can be caused by anything from the foods we consume, to hormonal troubles, to supplements and medications, says Niket Sonpal M.D. Sonpal recommends first adjusting your diet to promote smoother moves. Check with your doctor if you’re constipated regularly, but if you’re in a bind and need something asap, here are eight foods and beverages that might help move things along.

Related: Find a supplement to support digestion and more pleasant toilet time.

water

 

 

Drinking water may sound like a no-brainer, but according to Sonpal, one of the most common causes of constipation is dehydration. When you’re well-hydrated, available water can be drawn into your colon and help get your gut going, he explains.

Sonpal recommends drinking around eight glasses of water per day. Whenever your lips or mouth feel dry, it’s time to grab a glass. And if water is too bland for your taste buds, try adding sliced lemon or fruits like strawberries to your glass or water bottle for a hint of flavor.

fruits-and-veggies

 

 

So many of our nutritional struggles can be answered by fruits and veggies, and they may also be the answer to your gotta-poop prayers. Thank you, fiber. “Fiber is an insoluble, indigestible compound in our food that later helps to bulk up our stool,” says Sonpal.

Foroutan recommends trying nomming on high-fiber foods like non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens, prunes, and pears. A half-cup of prunes contains about six grams of fiber, while one large pear contains seven grams, according to USDA. (The U.S. dietary guidelines recommend adults get 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day.)

nuts-and-seeds

 

 

Another fiber-filled food group that might solve toilet troubles: nuts and seeds. Pumpkin seeds, for example, contain four and a half grams of fiber in a quarter cup.

One of the biggest constipation-busters in this category also happens to be the most itty-bitty of seeds: Chia seeds. With more than five grams of fiber per tablespoon, chia seeds soak up tons of water, and can help bulk up your number-two, says Foroutan.

tea-or-coffee

 

 

Your morning cuppa Joe and some varieties of tea can get your bowels going. These popular bevvies stimulate contractions and reflexes in your GI system, which is why they tend to make you go soon after you finish your cup, says Sonpal.

Sonpal recommends teas like Traditional Medicinal’s Smooth Move tea, which uses natural ingredients like chai spices, dried fruits, and ginger that may help support digestion. Smooth Move, and teas like it, incorporate a plant called senna, which is often used as a natural laxative.

Just don’t guzzle coffee by the pot. “While coffee can help keep you regular, too much can dehydrate you and actually make you constipated,” says Sonpal. Everyone tolerates caffeine differently, so keep an eye on how java makes you feel.

aloe-vera

 

 

This wonderful plant can do more than soothe scorched shoulders in the summer. Aloe vera juice can be beneficial for the digestive track and promote regularity, says Foroutan.

avocado

 

 

When your poo needs an extra push, Foroutan recommends upping your intake of healthy fats, which help promote regularity. The fats in avocados and olive oil help to soften up your stool for a less strained meeting with the porcelain throne.

yogurt

 

 

One of the most commonly-recommended and recognized food sources of probiotics, yogurt is a good go-to breakfast or snack when you just can’t go.

The live organisms we call probiotics help us digest food—literally keeping our GI tracts on track, ha!—and prevent food-borne illness, says the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

If you’re lactose intolerant or just freaked out by yogurt (it’s a consistency thing, we hear you), Foroutan recommends trying fermented foods like sauerkraut or pickles, which also contain probiotics.

spicy-foods

 

 

If you’re feeling like takeout, opting for a spicy dish may help snap your system back into action.

Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, for example, can get your bowels going, says Sonpal. So if you’re a lover of all things heat, go ahead and order that ghost pepper salsa. If spicy foods aren’t usually your thing, though, don’t go too crazy, warns Sonpal. You may find your constipation has shifted straight to diarrhea. Wonderful.

 

Pin this handy infographic for the next time you just can’t go…

8 Foods New

9 Ways To Pack More Protein Into Your Salad

We all love a giant, fresh salad—especially when it’s piled high with toppings. Often, however, our favorite throw-together lunch falls short on one incredibly important macronutrient: protein.

“Because people often think of salads as diet food, they may skimp on toppings, forgetting to include sources of carbohydrates and protein,” says Rachael Hartley, R.D., L.D., C.D.E. “A bowl of vegetables and dressing isn’t going to provide much energy or hold you over until your next meal.” Hence why you need protein and fiber-rich carbs (like beans, fruit, or quinoa), which take longer to digest and keep you satisfied.

To make sure your next salad is actually worthy of being called a meal, we asked nutritionists for their go-to add-ins.

Related: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
beans

 

 

With around five grams of protein and 100 calories in a half-cup (depending on the variety), beans are an awesome plant-based protein to throw into a salad, says Lauren Pincus, M.S., R.D.N.

Karla Moreno-Bryce, M.D.A., R.D, loves adding raw chickpeas to her salads, along with fresh fennel, spinach, and homemade vinaigrette made of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, agave, and salt and pepper. “There are so many possibilities for increasing protein content on a salad – and it doesn’t have to be meat, poultry, or fish,” she says.

Not into raw chickpeas? Lindsay Livingston, R.D., recommends falafel as another way to add beans to your salad. Falafel often incorporates spices like cumin, garlic, and coriander, kicking up the spice and flavor in any salad.

whole-grains

Wait, are we talking about protein or carbs here? Well, the answer is both. Since many whole grains also contain some protein, they can be a great addition to your next bowl.

Try a half -cup of grains like farro, which packs 12 grams of protein and six grams of fiber, for a more filling meal. Livingston likes to add roasted veggies to her salad along with the farro, plus some nuts for crunch. She recommends mixing plain yogurt with salsa for a creamy dressing.

eggs

 

 

“My salad philosophy is, ‘when in doubt, add an egg,’” says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook. “Top salads with a fried egg or two and enjoy as an anytime breakfast-inspired dish.” (Two eggs contain about 12 grams of protein.)

Dress your eggy salad with this delish vinaigrette from Newgent: equal parts avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, and lemon juice, plus salt and pepper to taste. Blend it up for a creamy dressing for your eggs and greens.

nuts-and-seeds

 

 

Without a solid crunch in the mix, salads can taste a little… soggy. To keep your mouth excited about every bite, swap the croutons and bacon bits for nuts and seeds, says Newgent.

Try two tablespoons of higher-protein options like hemp seeds (six grams of protein) or pumpkin seeds (five grams).

Related: Stash a bag of Hemp Hearts at your desk and you’ll never be without a salad-topper.

Just make sure you’re not too heavy-handed when adding these tiny toppings. Nuts can be very high in fat and calories, says Pincus. To keep your salad’s calories in reasonable range, use nuts and seeds in combo with another protein source.

seafood

 

 

Salads are a great opportunity to incorporate seafood into your diet, especially the canned stuff, says Hartley.

She often tosses wild salmon or tuna with olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs for a delicious salad protein add-in. Hartley also likes to top her seafood salad with hemp seeds, which contain omega-3s in addition to extra protein.

Pincus recommends topping your salad with three ounces of grilled salmon (20 grams of protein) or grilled calamari (13 grams).

cheese

 

 

Yep, you read that right. “Cheese is my absolute favorite food, so I love including a crumble of a flavorful cheese, like blue cheese or goat cheese, to my salad for flavor and some protein,” says Hartley.

Different varieties of cheese contain different amounts of protein. A quarter-cup of part-skim mozzarella contains five grams of protein, while a quarter-cup of shredded Colby cheese contains nearly seven grams.

If you’re going to add cheese to your salad, be mindful of creamy cheeses, which can be high is both calories and saturated fats, and skip any heavy dressing, says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. She recommends including only one high-fat ingredient in your salad, like avocado, cheese, or nuts.

Newgent recommends rolling small balls of goat cheese and pistachios to add an easy fancy feel to your salad.

chicken

 

 

There’s a reason this one’s a classic. A three-ounce serving of chicken breast (about the size of a deck of cards) packs between 15 and 20 grams of protein, says Gans.

Gans loves using chicken left over from dinner in her lunch salad the next day. She piles on the raw veggies and greens, plus a quarter of an avocado and sliced tomatoes.

turkey

 

 

We’re not telling you to roast an entire T-Giving bird just for your salad, but with seven grams of protein per ounce, turkey is a great source of protein, says Pincus. She recommends cooking lean ground turkey with a low-sodium taco spice mix. Add your taco-tastic turkey to a spring mix or standard greens along with avocado, cucumber, and tomatoes. You can also toss some black beans in there for extra carbs, fiber, and protein, she says.

soy

 

 

For a filling, meat-free salad, stock your bowl with the following: two-thirds vegetables, one-third soy protein (like tofu or edamame), and a small handful of fruit (like apples or berries), recommends Melissa Prest, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.R., L.D.N. A half-cup of tofu contains 11 grams of protein, while a half-cup of edamame packs nine.

Prest recommends topping off your salad with two tablespoons total of nuts, seeds, crumbled, cheese, or avocado.

 

7 Foods And Ingredients Nutritionists Won’t Eat

It’s time to face the music: A large—and growing—number of people regularly eat foods that are bad for their health. If you often consume foods fresh off the factory production line, there’s a good chance you’re one of them.

According to research published in BMJ Open, approximately 60 percent of the average American’s calories come from ‘ultra-processed food’ that contains added sugars, salts, fats, oils, and other substances. To put that in perspective, the USDA recommends that we consume around five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

We asked registered dietitians to tell us which foods and ingredients they’ve permanently crossed off their grocery lists in order to get some clearer direction about how to clean up our own diets.

  1. Trans Fats

We’re talking about those popular hydrogenated oils and partially hydrogenated oils. “Trans fats are made through a process called hydrogenation, in which hydrogen molecules are pumped into vegetable oil to turn it into a solid,” says Jim White, R.D., A.C.S.M. Health Fitness Specialist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Cringe.

According to the FDA, trans fats have been found to increase LDL (“low-density lipoprotein” a.k.a. bad) cholesterol, which is linked to heart disease—which is why the FDA is in the process of banning trans fats in foods.

Until the ban become effective in 2018, companies can still use trans fats in foods.  .. Plus, packaged foods that contain less than half a gram of the stuff can claim to have none, warns says Robin Foroutan M.S., R.D.N., H.H.C., an integrative medicine nutritionist.

  1. Mono sodium glutamate (MSG)

“MSG is a chemical flavor enhancer, but it’s also an excitotoxin, meaning it overstimulates certain cells in the brain,” says Foroutan.

The ingredient, which is most commonly added to foods like Chinese takeout, has been shown to mess with our ability to feel full, affect our hormones, and potentially contribute to weight gain, says White.

Some people are extra sensitive to MSG and may experience symptoms like headaches, facial pressure, numbness, tingling, weakness, drowsiness, nausea, and difficulty breathing, warns Foroutan. She recommends avoiding this chemical and looking out for its undercover names, which include yeast extract, autolyzed yeast extract, or autolyzed vegetable extract.

  1. Artificial Sweeteners

With more and more people jumping on the sugar-free bandwagon, what could be more perfect than alternatives that are just as sweet and calorie-free? Don’t get lost in your daydreaming just yet.

“These ingredients are chemicals that are made in a lab, not whole foods,” says Kath Younger, R.D. “Instead, I look for products that use honey, maple syrup, or dates to provide sweetness—or better yet, products that aren’t sweetened at all.” Younger strives to maintain a diet free of ingredients or substances that aren’t natural or in their natural form.

Artificial sweeteners appear on your food labels under an abundance of names, such as saccharin, aspartame, or sucralose, explains Younger.

Related: Try a natural alternative sweetener, like plnt’s stevia.

  1. Food Dyes

As enchanting as the neon hues of sour gummy worms are, they might not belong in your belly. “Food dyes are likely not helping to promote health,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N. “There are natural food dye alternatives like turmeric, beet or pomegranate juice, spinach powder, matcha, saffron, paprika and more.”

According to the FDA, some food colorings, like Yellow No. 5, may cause allergic reactions in some people. Yellow No. 5 is also currently undergoing testing amidst claims that it’s linked to hyperactivity in children.

  1. BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)

Ever wonder why some bread lasts so long on the shelf? It may be due to a preservative called BHA.

“BHA is mainly used to prevent oils in foods from oxidizing and becoming rancid,” says White. “Oxidation affects the flavor, color, and odor of foods, reduces some nutrients, and causes the production of free radicals [compounds harmful to our cells].” Vitamin A also prevents this oxidation, but the food industry generally prefers BHA because it remains stable at higher temperatures.

According to the FDA, while BHA shows no evidence of being harmful to public health as it is currently used, more research is required to investigate ‘uncertainties’ about the substance.

  1. Foods High In Sugar

Containing 10 teaspoons of sugar on average, soda is a one-way ticket to spiked insulin levels, and a later crash, says White. And that’s just one example of the many sugar-laden foods people eat regularly these days.

Many dietitians recommend avoiding excess sugar and ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, which is linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. The main problem with high-fructose corn syrup? The way it’s processed allows for it to go directly into your liver, spiking fat production, White explains.

In addition to affecting your insulin levels and weight, sugar can also lead to plaque buildup on your teeth, contributing to gum disease and cavities, says White.

  1. Excess Sodium

While some sodium is necessary in our diets, many people over indulge, says Angel Planells, M.S., R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The American Heart Association recommends about 1500 milligrams of sodium daily, but Planells says most Americans consume more than twice that.

In moderation, sodium helps our bodies maintain fluid balances, send nerve impulses, and contract our muscles, according to The Mayo Clinic. Too much sodium, however, increases the pressure in our blood vessels, eventually overstretching and injuring blood vessel walls while forcing our heart to work extra hard to pump blood, explains Planells.

“Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, consuming less sodium over time will help protect you as you age, and help reduce your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, weight gain and more,” says Planells.

8 Nutritionists Share How They Satisfy Their Sweet Cravings

Anyone with a sweet tooth knows the struggle of not face-planting into gallons of ice cream whenever the urge for a treat strikes. Praise the food gods that there are ways to satisfy those cravings without completely blowing up your blood sugar or throwing your healthy diet out the window.

We asked eight nutritionists to share their personal go-to fixes to help you triumph over temptation. Take that, frosted supermarket cookies!

apples.jpg
photo credit: Lauren Harris-Pincus

Deconstructed Chocolate-Dipped Apple

“My deconstructed chocolate-dipped apple is one of my favorite sweet and healthy snacks,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Nutrition Starring You. “It contains protein, fiber, and carbs, so it’ll keep you satisfied and happy.”

Make It: Core and slice 1 medium gala apple and toss in ½ teaspoon lemon juice. Layer the apples on a plate and generously top with 1 teaspoon hemp hearts and 1 ½ teaspoons shredded coconut. In a separate bowl, stir 1 tablespoon dry powdered peanut butter with water until thick, and top apples with the mixture. Finish off the plate with 2 teaspoons cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips.

Nutrition: 170 calories, 8.7 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein

iStock-511995068.jpg
photo credit: iStock

Sweetish Nuts

“For a healthy, sweet snack that won’t push you into a sugar coma, I love making sweetish nuts,” says Brooke Alpert, R.D., founder of B-Nutritious Dietetics and Nutrition and author of The Sugar Detox. “While these nuts are sugarless, they have a natural sweetness, thanks to the cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla. Leave a bowl out on your counter and see how quickly they disappear!”

Make It: Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, combine 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1 ½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil. Add 4 ounces each of walnuts, pecans, and cashews, and coat well with spice mixture. Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Nutrition: This mixture provides protein, fiber, and antioxidants—plus, the cinnamon can support stable blood sugar levels, says Alpert.

Related: Get your crunchy snack fix here.

pomegranate-probiotic
photo credit: Jim White

Key Lime Kiwi Smoothie with Greek Yogurt

“When I’m craving a sweet dessert, I typically pick a fruit and add some type of protein,” says Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. “This way I’m satisfied and I don’t have an awful sugar crash.”

“This key lime kiwi smoothie bowl is my go-to all year long, because it tastes like pie or ice cream but won’t derail all the healthy choices I made during the day.”

Make It: Combine 2 peeled kiwis, ½ an avocado, 1 banana, 2 tablespoons almond butter, 3 tablespoons lime juice, ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, and ¾ cup reduced or non-fat plain Greek yogurt in a blender. Blend on low until smooth. (Makes two servings.) If you’re feeling extra adventurous, pour the mixture into two bowls and top with crumbled granola or dark chocolate chips.

Nutrition: Has 15 grams of protein, and contains calcium and potassium, says White.

Related: For a quick high-protein snack, grab a protein bar.

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photo credit: Kath Younger

Whipped Banana Oatmeal

“My whipped banana oatmeal recipe satisfies any sweet tooth for breakfast, as a snack, or even as an added sugar-free dessert,” says Kath Younger, R.D. “It’s 100 percent whole grain and packed with fiber.”

Make it: Combine 1/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats, 1/3 cup 1 percent skim or soy milk, and 2/3 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the oats begin to steam or bubble, stir in ½ thinly sliced banana and whip vigorously. After about 5 minutes on medium heat, all liquid should be absorbed and the oatmeal should be at your desired consistency. Stir in a drop of vanilla extract and any other desired toppings, such as ½ tablespoon of chia seeds, almond butter, granola, or coconut.

sweet-potato-brownies
photo credit: Lindsay Livingston

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Brownies

“These chewy brownies are sweetened with dates which add some fiber, contain peanut butter for protein and healthy fats, and use sweet potato for an extra boost of veggies,” says Lindsay Livingston, R.D.

To make these delightful bites, add 1 cup chopped, pitted dates, 2/3 cup mashed, cooked sweet potato, and 3/4 cup nut butter to a food processor or high-powered blender. Blend mixture until smooth, and add 2 eggs and ¼ cup applesauce. Process until well-mixed and sift in 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and ½ teaspoon baking soda. Finally, stir in 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips or pieces. Spoon mixture into a greased 9×9 pan and bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. For some extra indulgence, top with melted nut butter and chocolate chips once brownies have cooled.

key-lime-kiwi
photo credit: Jackie Newgent

Pomegranate Probiotic Shake

“When I reach for something sweet, I want nutritional benefits, too, so one of my go-to’s is a pomegranate probiotic shake,” says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook and spokesperson for POM Wonderful.

“It’s pretty and tastes great—plus it’s a good source of potassium and contains the antioxidant polyphenols from the pomegranate, beta-carotene and vitamin C from the mango, and high-quality protein and gut-healthful probiotics from the skyr or Greek yogurt,” says Newgent.

Make it: Blend 2/3 cup 100 percent pomegranate juice, 2/3 cup frozen mango, and ½ cup Icelandic skyr or Greek yogurt. For something extra special, pour the beverage into a glass and top with a dollop of real whipped cream.

coconut-strawberries
photo credit: Tori Schmitt

Coconut-Sprinkled Strawberries

“When I’m asked to bring dessert to a party or when I’m craving something sweet at home, I’ll make some coconut-sprinkled strawberries,” says Tori Schmitt, M.S., R.D.N., founder of YES! Nutrition.

Make it: De-stem strawberries and cover with 1 tablespoon each of Greek yogurt. Toast unsweetened coconut shreds in the oven at 350 degrees until lightly brown, about 5 to 10 minutes, and roll on ½ tablespoon coconut per strawberry.

Nutrition: One of the heavenly nibbles is 30 calories, so you won’t ever feel that post-dessert guilt, says Schmitt.

dates and almond butter.jpg
photo: iStock

Dates in Nut Butter

“My favorite healthy sweet treat is two medjool dates stuffed with almond butter,” says Abby Langer, R.D. “Dates are naturally sweet and high in fiber, and the almond butter contains healthy fats—it’s a win-win!”

Make it: Slice open two pitted dates and spoon a teaspoon of almond butter into the center of each.

Nutrition: 198 calories

 

Pin now, enjoy delicious sweet treats later!

8-nutritionists-share

7 Protein Sources For Vegetarians

Whether you regularly partake in meatless Monday, live a flexitarian lifestyle, or ditched meat years ago, you’ve probably struggled with getting enough protein in your diet. But what’s the big deal with protein anyway? A couple of things, actually. For one, protein is essential for building muscle tissue and enzymes that help transport oxygen throughout your body, says the Harvard School of Public Health.

The proteins in our bodies are made up of 20 amino acids, nine of which, called essential amino acids, must come from our diets because we cannot produce them on our own, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Animal proteins are known for providing all nine essential amino acids, but most plant proteins (with the exception of a few) fall short by one or two.

But fear not, plant-eaters! As long as you’re eating the right combinations of foods, you can hit your daily-recommended protein intake. “Carefully planning meals and snacks throughout the day can ensure vegetarians meet their protein needs,” says Angel Planells, M.S., R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

According to the USDA, women need a minimum of about 46 grams of protein per day, while men need a minimum of about 56 grams. To make sure you’re getting your fill, incorporate the following plant-based protein sources into your daily grub.

soy-products

Soy-based food products, like tempeh, tofu, and soy burgers are very nutritious and versatile protein sources, says Planells. He recommends feasting on a half a cup of tempeh (which packs 19.5 grams of protein), half a cup of tofu (10 grams of protein), or a soy burger (about 13 grams, depending on the brand).

The bean’s claim to fame: It offers all of the nine essential amino acids found in animal-based protein products.

Soy is also a good source of B vitamins and essential fatty acids like omega-3s, which can both be tricky for non-meat-eaters to fill up on without supplementation since they’re prominent in animal food sources, says Planells.

lentils

After soy, lentils are one of your richest plant-based proteins, says Planells. Just half a cup of this type of legume, called a “pulse,” packs nine grams of protein, he adds.

While lentils contain all nine of the essential amino acids, some are in very low quantities. Pair them with a whole grain food like whole-wheat pita to boost your amino intake.

“Eating a variety of whole grains and plant proteins is your best bet at meeting your overall protein needs,” reminds Planells.

nut-butter

We know vegetarians and meat-lovers alike can get behind this protein source. Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain eight grams of protein, says Planells.

Not into super-sticky nut butters? Just grab a handful—23, to be exact—of nuts, like almonds, for a healthy snack that contains six grams of protein, he adds.

Because peanuts and almonds contain small amounts of the nine essential amino acids, Planells suggests pairing nuts and nut butters with a piece of whole wheat bread to achieve an adequate amount of essential amino acids.

seeds

Vegetarians (and many healthy eaters, for that matter) overlook the small but mighty seeds as a protein source. Case in point: One ounce of roasted pumpkin seeds contains eight grams of protein, while an ounce of sunflower seeds contains five, says Planells Not to mention, these seeds offer additional vitamins and minerals, like zinc, which helps hundreds of enzymes do their jobs throughout your immune system, nervous system, and more, says the National Institutes of Health.

Go ahead, sprinkle seeds on that salad for added crunch—or just eat ‘em straight as a snack.

Related: Check out our full selection of healthy seeds and oils.  

beans

Beans are an ever-popular protein source for many vegetarians. A half cup of kidney beans, for example, contains eight grams of protein. Pair those beans with a grain like kamut for a meal that packs 12 grams of protein.

You can toss beans into soups and salads, or even try dips like hummus, which is made from chickpeas and typically packs four grams of protein per four tablespoons.

Not to mention, many beans offer a good dose of iron. Adult men need eight milligrams of iron per day and women need eighteen, says the National Institutes of Health. One cup of kidney beans contains almost four grams. And while experts previously believed animal-sourced iron was absorbed more easily by our bodies than plant-sourced iron, they now believe quite the opposite, says Planells. Three cheers for plants!

quinoa

This popular side dish actually isn’t a grain—it’s a seed! A half cup of quinoa contains four grams of protein, says Planells. It makes a great base for adding roasted vegetables, beans and other proteins, and healthy fats like olive oil, he adds.

As an extra bonus, quinoa contains all of the nine essential amino acids. 

dark-leafy-greens

Veggies may not be the food we turn to for protein, but leafy greens can boost your protein intake—as well as your calcium.

Spinach is one of the most commonly recommended leafy greens to consume for protein because it provides five grams of protein per cup. It also contains 30 grams of calcium, according to the USDA.

Dark leafy greens can be added to soups, used as a base for salads, or stirred up with additional veggies for a quick stir-fry.

 

Keep your veggie protein game strong by pinning this image: 

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