6 Delicious Ways To Eat Kefir (Plus How To Pronounce It)

Fermented foods have never been trendier. And while you’ve probably eaten your fair share of Greek yogurt and sipped on some kombucha, I’m willing to bet there’s one fermented food you’ve never tried (or were even able to pronounce): kefir.

For the record, it’s pronounced kuh-FEER.

Kefir is a milk drink cultured with yeast and bacteria. Like yogurt, kefir contains protein, calcium, B vitamins, potassium, and probiotics—you know, those good bacteria that support your gut health. But while you eat yogurt with a spoon, you can drink kefir—it’s just a little thicker than regular milk. It’s typically made with cow’s milk, but you can also find non-dairy alternatives made with almond milk, coconut milk, or rice milk. A cup of plain kefir is tart, and weighs in at around 110 calories, 11 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of sugar, and two grams of fat per cup.

Stick to the plain stuff to avoid the added sugar in flavored varieties. (Some have 15 grams of added sugar per cup.) If your taste buds really can’t deal with the tartness, mix half a cup of plain kefir with half a cup of a flavored one—and choose the brand with the least sugar.

While a tall glass of kefir makes for a good breakfast or late-afternoon snack, it can do so much more! Here are six delicious, nutritionist-approved ways to use it:

1. Whip up homemade salad dressing.

We all love creamy dressings, but they’re often high in fat and devoid of protein—unless you use kefir as your base. I like to add mustard, horseradish sauce, a spoon of balsamic glaze, and spices to plain kefir for a dressing that bursts with flavor.

photo: Bonnie Taub-Dix

2. Bake sweet potato muffins.

Whether it’s fall or not, these muffins are a flavorful pick-me-up and a great after-school snack. Just bake up a few sweet potatoes—which are a great source of vitamin A and provide fiber—and you’ve got the makings of a delicious treat. Plus, the kefir adds some protein and a heavenly texture to this recipe. These muffins freeze well and pair perfectly with a dollop of cottage or ricotta cheese for an extra protein bump.

3. Add it to pancake or waffle batter.

Starting the morning with a warm stack of pancakes or waffles? Swap the buttermilk in the recipe out for kefir to nix some fat and gain some protein.

photo: Samina Qureshi

4. Blend up a smoothie.

According to Samina Qureshi R.D.N., L.D., of Wholesome Start, LLC, a solid smoothie needs five things: a liquid base, nutrients, protein, flavor, and a natural sweetener. And good ‘ole kefir covers three of the five, with its creamy texture and the protein and nutrients it provides. Qureshi’s berry kefir smoothie combines plain kefir, frozen berries, frozen banana, mixed greens, nut butter, and chia seeds for a balanced smoothie that makes a great snack, on-the-go meal, or post-workout fuel.

photo: Jessica Levinson

Or, keep things simple by blending plain kefir with frozen strawberries, lemon juice, and honey, for a sweet and easy snack. This smoothie, from Jessica Levinson, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., founder of Small Bites by Jessica provides vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. It’s a good starter smoothie for those a little intimidated by kefir’s tart flavor.

Related: Is That Smoothie Bowl As Healthy As It Seems?

photo: United Dairy Industry Association

If you’re feeling adventurous, mix up your flavors and add a little spice with a kefir-based pumpkin pie smoothie. All you need is plain kefir, ice, canned pumpkin puree, almond butter, pumpkin pie spice, and maple syrup or honey to whip up a drink that’s much more satisfying than the average pumpkin spice latte. In addition to a number of nutrients from the kefir, you’ll get fiber, potassium, and vitamin C from the pumpkin, according to Lanier Dabruzzi, M.S., R.D., L.D., of the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association.

photo: Liz Weiss

5. Soak some overnight oats.

Overnight oats starring kefir are a convenient make-ahead breakfast. Stash a simple combo of kefir, rolled oats, fruit, and chia seeds in the fridge overnight, and add toppings in the morning. These strawberry peanut overnight oats from Liz Weiss, M.S., R.D.N., taste like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and provide seven grams of fiber and 16 grams of protein.

6. Bake, well, anything.

You can swap kefir in for milk, cream, or yogurt in pretty much any baking recipe, whether it’s for bread or cupcakes. Why not treat yourself to some extra protein and probiotics?

Related: Check out a number of flours, sweeteners, and more for healthy baking.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday HealthBetter Homes & GardensWomen’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

5 Healthier Versions Of Your Favorite Comfort Foods

We all have foods we turn to when we want to soothe our souls. It’s easy to go straight for the cheesy and carby goodness of a pizza, or a full plate of Entenmann’s finest—but it is also possible to enjoy the flavors of our favorite comfort foods in a way that’s a little healthier. With a few tweaks and swaps, you can make your favorite meals or treats more nutritious and less food baby-inducing, and savor every bite without a shred of guilt.

Below are a few of the classic comfort foods I turn to, and how I transform them into lighter—but still delicious—dishes.

1. Meatloaf

Nothing beats pulling a juicy meatloaf out of the oven—but depending on the type of meat you use and how breadcrumb-crazy you go, the calories can really add up.

I like to lighten up traditional meatloaf by swapping beef for lean turkey to save fat and calories, and boost the protein. (While 3-ounces of 85 percent lean ground beef is 212 calories, with 13 grams of fat and 22 grams of protein, the 93 percent lean ground turkey I use is just 129 calories, with 7 grams of fat and 16 grams of protein.) Ground turkey also provides vitamins B6 and B12, along with niacin, choline, selenium, and zinc.

I also add diced veggies—like onions, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and carrots—to my meatloaf to bulk it up and add some additional fiber and nutrients. When it comes to breadcrumbs, I prefer whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs because they offer a light and crispy crunch, but if you’re looking for a gluten-free option, you can use gluten-free oats, crackers, or even some cooked brown rice.

Check out my full turkey-veggie meatloaf recipe here. You can even transform this meatloaf into meatballs to serve over zucchini noodles!

2. Cake

Anyone with a sweet tooth knows how hard it can be to beat back sugar cravings. Instead of turning to sugar and fat-laden cake, brownies, or cookies, bake up a lighter sweet treat, like banana muffins.

Your average cupcake or muffin comes in around 220 calories with 12 grams of fat and 22 grams of sugar. (Plus, most are made with white all-purpose flour, which is pretty devoid of nutrients—especially fiber.) My banana-almond bread muffins are just sweet enough (they have chocolate chips in there!) and offer the added benefit of potassium and fiber from the bananas and whole-wheat pastry flour. They’re about 200 calories, but with eight grams of fat and half the sugar of a cupcake. No, a banana muffin may not be quite the same as a funfetti cupcake, but I promise it’ll get the job done!

You can boost the health value of this baked good even further by swapping out the oil for an equal amount of mashed avocados. Unlike oil, avocados are a good source of fiber and potassium. Applesauce can also be subbed in for oil—you’ll save tons of calories—but fair warning: While the muffins’ flavor will still be spot-on, they may have a slightly different texture.

3. Pizza

Pizza is the perfect marriage of cheese and carbs—but it’s often a one-way ticket to Food Coma City. Swapping takeout for a DIY pie makes it easier to cut back on calories and bump up the healthy factor of your meal.

In my house, we start with a whole-wheat crust and top it with a variety of vegetables, like fresh spinach, crushed tomatoes, garlic, and mushrooms, and a medley of cheeses. We go lighter on the cheese and heavier on the vegetables to reduce calories, while adding vitamins, minerals, fiber and all the powerful antioxidants vegetables offer. Stick to two cups of shredded mozzarella, so each slice has just about 90 calories worth on it.

To add even more veggie power to your pizza (and slash carbs), build your pie with a cauliflower crust. Cauliflower provides an assortment of nutrients, like vitamins C, K, and B6, folatepantothenic acid, choline, and dietary fiber—and one cup is just 22 calories and five grams of carbs. You can buy cauliflower pizza crusts pre-made in many supermarkets these days (check the freezer aisle) or make them at home.

I like to make my own by mixing together a bag of riced cauliflower, three eggs, half a cup of grated mozzarella cheese, half a cup of chopped nuts (like almonds, pecans, or pignoli nuts), and fresh herbs and Italian seasoning. After combining the ingredients, I flatten the crust onto a pizza stone and bake in the oven at 425 degrees until lightly browned. To really keep the calorie count low, cut down on the amount of mozzarella you use in the crust.

4. Spaghetti

I’m a huge pasta fan, but this often-heavy meal doesn’t always fit into a day of healthy eats. To boost the nutrition of any pasta dish, I always recommend going for a whole-wheat pasta. (While a cup of cooked white pasta has two grams of fiber, a cup of whole-wheat pasta packs around five—and that makes it easier to feel full and stop twirling after one serving.)

Related: 5 Healthier Noodles (That Aren’t Zoodles) For When You’re Craving Pasta

When I want to put veggies at the center of this dish, I use a spiralizer to curl out some zucchini noodles, which saves about 150 calories and 28 grams of carbs. I top my zoodles with tomato sauce, a few chunks of chicken, tofu or cheese, sliced veggies (like red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, and mushrooms), and garlic.

5. Pie

A traditional slice of pie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream can set you back close to 700 calories, often with around 25 grams of fat and 95 grams of carbs (most of which come from sugar). Delicious, yes, but definitely worth saving for special occasions.

I love the flavors of pie, though, so I ditch the dough and create a cobbler instead. You’ll mix together your favorite fruit—like apples—with seasonings and just a bit of sugar, and top them with an easy and scrumptious crumb topping made from granola and chopped nuts. Top my apple cobbler recipe with a scoop of frozen yogurt and you’ve got a dessert that hovers around 350 calories.

To kick the health factor up yet another notch, go for a baked apple. Core an apple and fill the core with crunched-up graham cracker and cinnamon. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Top it with a small scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt or a few spoons of vanilla Greek yogurt. It may not be a piece of pie, but at 200ish calories, it’s a bargain in comparison.

Related: Check out protein snacks and puddings to satisfy cravings on-the-go.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday HealthBetter Homes & GardensWomen’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

7 High-Calorie Foods You Should Totally Be Eating

We talk about calories a lot. So much so that new food labels will highlight calories in a big, bold font. But as much as we obsess over them, calories don’t always tell the full story of a food.

Beyond calories, we need a variety of nutrients to keep our bodies and minds as healthy as possible. After all, three-hundred calories of whole-grain bread, turkey, lettuce, tomato, and sliced avocado are far different than the same amount of calories from a candy bar. While the number of calories in your diet can determine your weight, the quality of your calories determines your health.

When we get too caught up with calories, we may end up writing off a number of healthy foods that absolutely deserve a spot on our plates. Allow me to make my case for a few of these foods.

1. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds may be tiny, but the calories add up as fast as you can sprinkle them. Don’t let their calorie count—138 calories per two tablespoons—scare you off, though. Those two tablespoons provide a powerhouse of protein (five grams, which is about as much as an egg) and fiber (10 grams).

Try topping a cup of plain Greek yogurt with some fresh-cut mango, half a cup of high-fiber cereal (at least five grams), and a tablespoon of chia seeds. Stash in the fridge overnight and you’ll have a pudding-like breakfast you’ll want to jump out of bed for in the morning.

2. Full-Fat Yogurt

If you haven’t already noticed, full-fat Greek yogurts are taking up more and more shelf space in the dairy aisle. When my patients tell me they don’t like plain Greek yogurt, I usually recommend they give the full-fat version a go. Here’s why: Although a serving of full-fat yogurt is 130 calories (versus 80 for the fat-free stuff), it packs a richer, creamier texture. And, of course, it still provides the usual protein (13 grams, which is about as much as two ounces of chicken). You’ll also get 15 percent of your daily needs for calcium, plus some potassium, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12. What’s more, the probiotics in yogurt fuel the friendly bacteria in your gut to help boost your immune system. All this goodness is certainly worth 130 calories.

Try swapping full-fat plain Greek yogurt in for sour cream on your next baked potato. The yogurt packs four times as much protein as sour cream and will help you feel fuller for longer.

3. Oil

Oil might make you think, ‘calorie bomb’—and rightly so, considering a single cup of oil is almost 2,000 calories. If you’re mindlessly drizzling it all over your salads and veggies, you might be taking in hundreds of extra calories, but as long as you limit oil to a tablespoon or so, you can benefit from its health benefits without going overboard on the cals. Two of my favorite picks are olive oil and avocado oil, because they contain healthy monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) that can support your heart and cholesterol.

When making salad dressings, focus on using less oil and more vinegar. Adding a thick balsamic glaze to your dressing can help keep you from going to oil-heavy—and just a tablespoon provides about a third of the calories as a tablespoon of oil. Just combine balsamic vinegar and a little sweetener in a saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally until the liquid thickens.

Related: Shop a variety of flavorful, healthy oils.

4. Nuts

Full disclosure: I am nuts about nuts. If there’s any food that I admittedly overdo, it’s nuts. A one-ounce serving of nuts is about 170 calories, with six grams of protein, two grams of fiber, and an array of nutrients coming along with those healthy fats.

Here are a few reasons to eat more nuts (in proper portion sizes, of course): Almonds provide bone-building calcium as well as vitamin E, a nutrient that supports healthy skin. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium, which is needed to help boost immunity and wound healing. Cashews provide iron, which helps build blood cells. Pistachios are rich in vitamin B6, which supports your nervous system, and lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that play a role in eye health. Walnuts are rich in the beloved omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health.

Sprinkle sliced, slivered, or crushed nuts over salads, veggie dishes, or even your oatmeal to satisfy your hunger with every crunchy mouthful.

5. Bread

We love to ditch bread when we’re trying to lose weight—but it’s one of the most satisfying, energizing foods out there! While you can feel free to skip the bagels (which often pack around 500 calories even before the cream cheese), a slice of bread is typically about 100 calories. My advice: Instead of giving up bread completely, stick to whole-grain. Whole-grain bread provides more fiber (about two grams versus 0.8 in the white stuff) to promote healthy digestion and fill you up. You’ll also get a dose of B vitamins, which support energy and your nervous system, and the carbs your body needs for fuel. Just look for a loaf that lists ‘whole grain’ as the first ingredient.

Treat yourself in a healthful way by making French toast with whole-grain bread and topping it with fresh fruit instead of syrup.

6. Beans

Beans are not given the superfood status they deserve! These plants pack tons of nutrition into a half-cup serving, which is about 100 calories. Beans are rich in fiber (eight grams), protein (six grams), and goodies like B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and zinc. Not to mention, they are easy to find in any supermarket, affordable, and simple to store. The soluble fiber in beans has been shown help ward of high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes—whew! Just avoid pre-made bean dishes or sides that are often packed with added sugar.

Beans are great alongside your morning eggs, atop your salad at lunch, or in a soup with dinner. You an even enjoy beans in the form of dip (like chickpeas in hummus) for a fiber and protein-filled snack. I like to jazz up store-bought hummus with chopped veggies, pesto, herbs, spices or honey, and tons of veggie sticks for dunking.

7. Cheese

Cheese pretty much speaks straight to our souls. And while a serving of cheese isn’t quite as much as we wish it was, it provides some valuable nutrients. A one-ounce portion (about the size of two dice) is 110 calories of mostly protein or fat, depending on the variety. You can get up to seven grams of protein per ounce of cheese, plus about 20 percent of your daily calcium needs.

Most cheeses also contain phosphorous, which is important for building strong bones and teeth, as well as zinc, which enhances our ability to taste and smell. Cottage cheese is one of my favorites because you get lots of value (six grams of protein) for little fat—even the full-fat types weigh in at just 55 calories per two ounces.

Related: The Highly Underrated Protein Source You’re Probably Not Eating

Just don’t confuse cheese and cream cheese. Cream cheese is composed mostly of fat (10 grams per ounce) and offers little protein (2 grams per ounce). And when adding a little cheese to your eggs, use shredded cheese instead of sliced cheese. A tablespoon of shredded cheese is just 40 calories, while a slice can be closer to 100.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday HealthBetter Homes & GardensWomen’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

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9 Nutrients You May Be Short On If You Don’t Eat Dairy

Just about everyone has dietary restrictions these days—in fact, many people cut out entire food groups, like dairy. Whether you have a milk allergy, are lactose intolerant, or just aren’t a fan, it’s important to be aware that ditching dairy may mean potentially missing out on a number of key nutrients.

Thing is, dairy foods are pretty jam-packed with the good stuff. Cow’s milk contains nine essential nutrients, including protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Cheese also provides protein, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B2, and vitamin B12. And yogurt (especially Greek yogurt) packs a good dose of protein, plus calcium and ever-important probiotics.

Don’t worry, though, you can find these nutrients in non-dairy sources. Just know that you may need to eat several different types of those foods to reach the amount of the nutrients in dairy.

1. Protein

We’ve put protein on a pedestal because of its ability to squash hunger and support and repair tissues and muscles. A cup of dairy milk contains eight grams of protein—but this is one nutrient you’ll have no problem making up for elsewhere. (Men need a bare minimum of 56 grams per day and women need at least 46 grams—but most of us get much more.)

Just one ounce of most animal proteins like meat, poultry, and fish provides as much (if not more) protein as that glass of milk. (A three-ounce chicken breast gets you about 26 grams.) Eggs come close with six grams of protein per egg. Plus, plenty of plants also provide similar levels of protein as milk. Tofu comes in around 10 grams of protein per four ounces, beans provide about six  grams per half-cup, nuts provide about six grams per ounce, and whole grains contain about three grams per quarter-cup serving.

Related: 7 Vegetarian Protein Sources

2. Calcium and Vitamin D

I’m putting these two together because the pair is crucial for your bones—and many Americans fall short on both nutrients. (Vitamin D also plays an important role in your immune function.) Adults need about 600 IUs of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day.

One cup of milk contains about 305 mg of calcium, while an ounce of hard cheese contains about around 200. Most milk is fortified to provide about 120 IUs of vitamin D, while that cheese supplies about six IUs. Many almond milks are also fortified with enough calcium and vitamin D to be a fair replacement for cow’s milk.

Other sources of calcium include canned salmon (including the soft bones), which offers 180mg per three ounces, firm tofu (320 mg per half a block), almonds (80mg per ounce), spinach (240mg per cup), and broccoli (180mg per cup).

Vitamin D, which is pretty darn tough to get from food, can be found in sockeye salmon (440 IUs in three ounces) and eggs (40 IUs per whole egg).

Related: Find a vitamin D supplement to help you fill nutritional (and sunshine) gaps.

3. Phosphorus

This mineral tag-teams with calcium to keep bones and teeth strong, and also helps strengthen your immune system. You’ll get 224mg phosphorus in a cup of milk, and adults need 700mg per day.

You’ll find phosphorus in other animal proteins like turkey (131 mg per three ounces), and sardines (215mg per three ounces, canned), and scallops (340mg per three and a half ounces). It’s also found in plant sources like quinoa (149mg per half -up), almonds (880mg per ounce), Brazil nuts (885mg per ounce) and in chia (265mg per tablespoon) and sesame seeds (21mg per tablespoon).

4. Potassium

This electrolyte (a type of mineral) is a key player in establishing normal heart rhythm and stable blood pressure levels. Milk provides around 342 mg potassium per cup, and adults need about 4,700mg a day.

When dairy is off the table, turn to produce for your potassium—it’s pretty easy to find! Fruits and veggies like bananas (422mg per banana), white potato (1626mg per baked tater with skin), apricots (650mg per two ounces, dried) and kidney beans (655mg per cup) are some of the richest sources out there.

5. Vitamin A

Vitamin A protects your skin and promotes good vision. Most milk is fortified with vitamin A, providing around 499 IUs per cup. We need about 10,000 IUs a day.

Our bodies convert beta-carotene, which gives plants their orangey color, into vitamin A. Sweet potatoes (a whopping 11,916IU per three ounces), carrots (10,691IU per half-cup, chopped), cantaloupe (5987IU per cup), and winter squash (22,869IU per cup) all provide some. You can also get vitamin A from spinach (2,183IU per cup).

6. Riboflavin

Also known as vitamin B2, this vitamin impacts energy production at a cellular level and generally helps keep cells in good shape. A cup of milk provides about 0.5mg, which is half of an adult’s daily B2 needs.

Beef liver (2.9mg per three ounces), clams (0.4mg per three ounces), and mushrooms (0.3mg per half-cup) all supply some riboflavin. This is another one that’s found in fortified cereals (1.7mg per serving).

7. Magnesium

The most abundant mineral in our body, magnesium plays a role in hundreds of different processes. (A few: blood sugar function, cardiovascular function, and digestion.) You’ll find 28mg of magnesium in a cup of milk. While women need about 320mg per day, men need about 420mg.

Plant foods like almonds (105mg per quarter cup) and sunflower seeds (128mg per ounceounce) contain magnesium. You can also find it in shrimp (36 mg per three ounces).

8. Zinc

Zinc is important for proper wound healing and actually impacts your perception of taste and smell—fun fact! Milk has 1.1mg of zinc. Guys need about 11mg a day, while women need about eight.

Get your fill of zinc from non-dairy foods like oysters (74mg per three ounces), crab (6.5 mg per three ounces), beef (7mg per three ounces), and baked beans (2.9mg per half-cup).

9. Probiotics

Last but not least are probiotics. These beneficial bacteria help your gut take better care of you; they boost immunity and can help ward off digestive woes. When you think probiotics, you probably think yogurt or kefir—and although the amounts and strains of probiotics in yogurts vary, varieties labeled “contains active, live cultures” are sure to provide some of the good stuff.

Luckily, probiotics are also pretty easy to find in non-dairy foods. Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and pickles are natural sources of probiotics. You can also find it in super-trendy kombucha, a drink made from fermented tea.

Related: I Drank Kombucha Every Day For Two Weeks—Here’s What My Gut Had To Say

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday HealthBetter Homes & GardensWomen’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

11 Meat-Free Meals That Still Pack Plenty Of Protein

The buzz around plant-based eating is growing faster than the weeds in our backyards this summer—but you’re not alone if you’re not quite sure what it all means. Allow me to clarify: Plant-based eating doesn’t mean placing your 16-ounce veal chop on a bed of greens, nor does it mean that you have to become a strict vegan or vegetarian. This style of eating basically means that meat (and other animal products) takes a step to the side while letting plants play the starring role on your dinner table.

A diet rich in vegetables and other produce has been shown to reduce risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. And, besides keeping people healthy, plant-based eating can also benefit our planet by decreasing global greenhouse gas emissions caused by food production practices, according to research published in Nature.

I know what you’re thinking: How can I possibly get enough protein in a meal without meat? It can be done! Combine a couple of plant-based protein sources into your meal and you can rack up more protein than you think. And considering the Institute of Medicine recommends a baseline of 56 grams of protein per day for men and 46 grams for women, you may not need to eat quite as much as you think. Of course, personal protein needs may vary depending on your goals, height, weight, and activity level, but many of us tend to go overboard on animal protein, eating steaks and burgers the size of our heads on the reg.

That said, a meal without meat doesn’t have to leave you lacking the macronutrient you need to build muscle and keep your body strong. These veggie-focused recipes pack between eight and 26 (yes, really!) grams of protein—and are guaranteed to win you over to the plant-based team.

1. Avocado Mini Muffins

My avocado mini egg muffins are a great portable way to sneak extra protein and veggies into your day. The eggs, egg whites, and feta cheese are our main protein contributors here, providing about eight grams of protein per two mini muffins.

These muffins are bursting with color from the tomatoes and spinach in the recipe—both of which are good sources of vitamin C! And, last but not least, heart-healthy avocado supplies a creamy texture while its fiber helps you feel full longer. Make my recipe your own by adding anything you have sitting in your fridge—like peppers, mushrooms or beets.

2. Sunflower Caesar Salad

Throw together this quick but satisfying salad from Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N., author of The Superfood Swap, for a hefty dose of plant-based protein. It packs more than 15 grams of protein (from the chickpeas, sunflower seed butter, and sprouted bread) and about as much fiber.

First, toss as much romaine lettuce as you’d like with grape tomatoes, sliced red onion, and a half-cup of canned chickpeas. Then, toast two slices of sprouted whole-grain bread and cut them into croutons. Make your own dressing by whisking together two tablespoons of water, a tablespoon of sunflower seed butter, a tablespoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, half a clove of minced garlic, and a sprinkle of sea salt.

photo: Mandy Enright

3. Freekeh Sunflower Burger

This one’s for all you burger lovers out there! This freekeh sunflower burger combines protein from several seeds (sunflower, pepita, chia, and hemp) and the freekeh (a whole grain also known as ‘farik’) to provide 16 grams of protein per patty. You can boost protein further by topping your burger with soy cheese (three grams per slice) or regular cheese (six grams per slice). Serve with lettuce and tomato on a whole grain bun. Mandy Enright, M.S., R.D.N., R.Y.T., loves that this burger has a dense texture—much like your regular ‘ole meaty burger.

photo: Brittany Sparks

4. Vegetarian Split Pea Sweet Potato Soup

This veggie-lovers comfort food is budget friendly and loaded with nutrients. Thanks to the split peas and lentils, just a half-cup bowl of this soup provides around 15 grams of protein. The lentils and split peas also offer fiber, folate, iron, zinc, and potassium, according to Brittany Sparks, R.D.N., C.S.R. This soup is delish hot or cold, and makes for a great main meal or vegetable-packed side.

photo: Sharon Palmer

5. Savory Steel-Cut Oats With Spinach, Mushrooms, And Tofu

The thought of oats combined with spinach, mushrooms, and tofu may feel a little strange, but hear us out. This vegan, gluten-free dish will make you rethink your favorite breakfast staple. Herbs and spices like black pepper, salt, and basil, along with aromatic garlic and tasty sun-dried tomatoes, give this bowl all of the flavor it needs. In a serving, you’ll load up on a whopping 26 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber, plus iron and folic acid (from the spinach), says Sharon Palmer, R.D.N. Steel-cut oats have a chewy texture and mild flavor, so you can swap them in for other whole grains, like brown rice, whenever you feel like mixing it up.

Related: 7 Vegetarian Protein Sources

photo: Whitney English

6. Vegan “Egg” Salad Sandwich

This breakfast-inspired sandwich is easy to whip up and makes for the perfect take-to-work meal. Mashed tofu combines with nutritional yeast, avocado oil, and a few spices (paprika, turmeric, garlic powder, salt, and pepper) to form an animal-free scramble that’ll satisfy even the biggest egg lover. The scramble packs 15 grams of protein and comes together in just five minutes, says Whitney English, M.S., R.D.N., C.P.T. Nosh on it as is, on top of a bed of greens, or between two slices of sprouted whole-grain bread.

photo: Jennifer Hunt

7. Quinoa Edamame Salad With Citrus Vinaigrette

This fresh and flavorful meal is a great lunch or light dinner option. The salad, from Jennifer Hunt, R.D.N., L.D., combines quinoa, edamame, and a touch of feta for a meal that supplies 20 grams of protein per serving. The DIY citrus vinaigrette uses flavors like orange juice, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and honey, for a bright burst of goodness. It’s a great balance of complex carbs for energy, plant protein to keep you satisfied, and fat to help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins, Hunt says.

photo: Judy Barbe

8. Walnut Mushroom Lasagna Rolls

Sometimes the soul just needs pasta. And who are we to deny the soul? This lasagna recipe from Judy Barbe, R.D., author of Simple Solutions for Fresh Food & Well-Being, still offers about 20 grams of protein per serving, without a touch of meat. Here, the protein comes from walnuts, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, and egg. Barbe loves ricotta cheese because it’s rich in calcium and has a mild flavor that plays well with other ingredients. Meanwhile, walnuts provide healthy fats and fiber, while mushrooms provide rich, savory flavor and valuable vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D.

9. Lemony Mint Quinoa

A cold quinoa salad is a great make-ahead meal to stash in the fridge and spoon out throughout the week. Quinoa, which is one of very few complete plant proteins, is also high in fiber and provides iron and calcium—helping this summery-tasting salad hit about eight grams of protein and eight grams of fiber per cup, says Cheryl Harris, M.P.H., R.D. Harris likes to add halved grape tomatoes to her salad, but you can pump up the veggie power with any other additions, like cucumbers or peppers. Add a half-cup of red beans or edamame to boost the protein count to 15 grams.

photo: Julie Harrington

10. Chickpea Walnut Sandwich

Give your usual tuna or chicken salad a plant-based makeover with this recipe from culinary nutritionist consultant Julie Harrington, R.D. Because they have a firm texture, chickpeas are the perfect pulse for a veggie-based salad. You’ll combine plain Greek yogurt, chickpeas, walnuts, and a few extra flavors to create a sandwich-ready salad complete with plenty of crunch. Layer your salad between two pieces of sprouted whole-grain bread with some lettuce, tomato, and onion, and you’ve got an all-star sammie that provides almost 20 grams of protein.

11. Mix-And-Match Power Bowl

Looking for an easy, throw-together dish? A bowl full of veggies, whole grains, and legumes or pulses—with a dollop of flavorful dressing—is a quick formula for a balanced meal. Try combining a cup of greens, a half-cup of cooked farro, a half-cup of cooked lentils, and a half-cup of roasted veggies. Top your mixture with a drizzle of sriracha, two tablespoons of garlic hummus, and a sprinkle of hemp seeds. Kelly Jones M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D. likes this meal because it’s filled with a medley of flavor and textures and provides more than 20 grams of protein, plus plenty of fiber and healthy fats to keep you feeling satisfied for hours.

Related: Find a plant-based protein supplement to fuel your body.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday HealthBetter Homes & GardensWomen’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

Why Is Jackfruit The New ‘It’ Food—And What Can You Do With It?

It seems like we’re constantly obsessing over a new ‘superfood’—and right now the one everyone’s talking about is the jackfruit, a ginormous, unique fruit that makes for a mean pulled pork substitute and packs plenty of nutrients. Intrigued yet? Here are all the details you didn’t know you needed to know about jackfruit—and a few tips for taking advantage of this trendy food.

What the Heck is a Jackfruit?

Native to Southeast Asia, jackfruit is the largest tree fruit in the world. Seriously, this isn’t a fruit you’ll casually carry home from the supermarket. According to Purdue University, jackfruits can weigh anywhere from 10 to 100 pounds and grow up to three feet long. Beneath its bumpy green exterior are bulbs of yellow flesh, each with a large seed inside.

You’ll find jackfruit in specialty health or ethnic food stores in the U.S., and they’re all over markets in places like India and Bangladesh. You can find them fresh, canned, or dried. (Other parts of the plant have been used for clothing dye, animal feed, building material, and glue in these parts of the world, too.) Jackfruit is stealing the spotlight right now because it’s easier to grow and maintain than some other staple crops (like wheat and corn) and thrives in a more tropical climate—a plus for environmentalists concerned about climate change and food sustainability.

The meat of the fruit has a subtle, sweet taste and contains vitamin C ,as well as B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, folic acid, and B6. (Good luck finding another fruit that contains as many B vitamins!) On top of that, its seeds contain protein, potassium, calcium, and iron. A serving of jackfruit (about 3.5 ounces or 100 grams) is about 95 calories, with 25 grams of carbs, two grams of protein, 21 grams of sugar, and a gram of fiber.

 

How Exactly Does One Eat A Jackfruit?

Sure, it’s a fruit, but because of its mild flavor it’s a total chameleon on the plate. Sweet, savory, main dish, or dessert, the versatile jackfruit can do it. It’s a blank canvas, ready to soak up the flavor of other foods and spices paired with it—much like tofu!

The jackfruit use you may have heard about in the U.S. is an unexpected one: vegan pulled pork. The stringy texture of the fruit’s flesh makes a good stand in for meat (just keep in mind that it’s not nutritionally equivalent to an animal protein) or even some other plant-based protein sources. A serving of jackfruit contains just about two grams of protein, while an equal serving of animal protein—like fish or poultry—packs 21 grams. So don’t count on jackfruit to be a main source of protein in your meal! On the flipside, one perk of substituting jackfruit for meat is that it doesn’t contain any cholesterol or saturated fat.

Related: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

You can enjoy plain jackfruit as a snack, blend the flesh into a smoothie, slice and bake it into chips, freeze and puree it into ‘nice cream,’ or even bake with flour made from its seeds. You can also add chunks of the fruit to your next stir fry or curry dish, just as you would add tofu or a veggie! It’s a great way to add volume to your food and really help you feel full, while gaining nutrients without a lot of extra calories.

photo: Minimalist Baker

Try the trend on for size with this BBQ jackfruit recipe from The Minimalist Baker. All you need are two cans of young green jackfruit, barbecue sauce, and a few extra seasonings like paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and chili powder. To bump up the protein, I’d pair this with a serving of your favorite beans (black beans provide six grams of protein per half cup) or sautéed tofu (about seven grams in three ounces).

Related: Bump up your daily intake with a plant-based protein supplement.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday HealthBetter Homes & GardensWomen’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

8 Eating Habits That Could Be Messing With Your Weight

Sure, we know eating fast food all the time probably isn’t the best move for our waistline—but there are some less obvious, often overlooked eating habits that could be affecting the scale without you even realizing it.

You may be eating all of the right foods for your body, but have you ever thought about the way you are consuming these foods? Perhaps you’re skipping breakfast, inhaling your lunch, or just saving all of your calories for dinner.

Any of the following bad habits sound like you? In the end, your eating habits probably make more of a difference than you think. Time to reevaluate your routine and get that scale moving in the right direction!

Bad Habit #1: Eating At Your Desk

If your keyboard is basically your place mat, it’s time to change up your lunch game. First of all, sitting all day without so much as a lunchtime walk can wreak havoc on your long-term health. In fact, research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a relationship between time spent sitting and all-cause mortality (including cardiovascular issues and cancer)—even in people who exercise. Plus, eating while hunched over your desk and focusing on your next deadline can lead to some major indigestion.

Use your lunchtime as an opportunity to get up out of that chair, walk around, and get your blood flowing after you eat—you’ll not only burn calories, but you’ll beat bloat, too, since exercise helps gas pass through the digestive tract more quickly.

Bad Habit #2: Multitasking While You Eat

Whether you’re staring at your phone, computer, or TV screen, munching while doing something else can lead to mindless eating and a lack of appreciation for the food that is in front of you. How many of us have accidentally blown through an entire bag of popcorn or finished our dinner without even realizing it because we were fixated on Netflix?

Next time you catch yourself snacking while staring at the screen, step away and focus on the flavor, temperature, texture, and sound of your food. You’ll eat more slowly, feel much more satisfied, and your stomach, taste buds, and waistline will thank you later.

Bad Habit #3: Not Balancing Your Plate

Ever feel like you need a nap after scarfing down a plate of pasta for lunch? When you go hard on carbs, without any protein or fat, your blood sugar—and energy levels—pay the price. That’s because when your body breaks down carbs your blood sugar soars and then it plummets, so you feel a rush of energy followed by a crash. Protein and fat help to slow down the digestion of carbs, so they keep blood sugar levels more stable, which is good for your satiety and waistline.

Still not a believer? Check this out: A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that overweight participants who ate a diet of about 45-percent carbs (30 percent fat and 25 percent protein) lost more weight over the course of six months than those who ate a diet of 58 percent carbs (30 percent fat and 12 percent protein).

Set yourself up for a satisfying, stable, blood sugar-supporting, and weight-loss friendly meal by including each of the following in every meal or snack: healthy fats (like salmon, avocado, or seeds), complex carbs (like starchy veggies, oats, or brown rice), and quality proteins (like chicken, tuna, or lentils).

Related: What You Should Know If You’re Considering Cutting Refined Carbs

Bad Habit #4: Eating While Standing At The Fridge

When we stand there gazing into the refrigerator looking for just the right snack, we often end up picking bits from here and there (hello random cheese slices and cold leftovers) until we’re suddenly full from our nibble rampage.

Decide what you’re really in the mood for or what snack best fits your healthy eating or weight-loss goals before you go anywhere near the fridge. When you plan out your snacks ahead of time, you won’t be left with hands wandering around the fridge in a pinch. Instead, you can focus on really savoring your snack.

Bad Habit #5: Skipping Meals

If you’re trying to lose weight and think skipping breakfast is a good idea because it means you’ll eat fewer calories, think again. Regardless of the intention, a skipped meal welcomes wonky blood sugar, low energy levels, hunger pangs, headaches, and even a sluggish metabolism. (When you don’t consume enough calories, your body essentially thinks you’re starving and slows down your calorie-burn to conserve energy.) A missed meal can also impact your mood and make you “hangry” and irritable, possibly because of your plummeting blood sugar levels.

Your body depends on food for fuel; skipping meals pushes us into an anxiety-driven starvation mode, in which our body thinks there’s no sustenance to be found. To avoid this situation, try to eat breakfast within an hour or two of waking up.

As a general rule, try never to go more than five hours without eating a meal or snack, and make sure that when you do snack, it contains a balance of protein, fat, and carbs.

Related: 11 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Metabolism

Bad Habit #6: Eating For The Wrong Reasons

Stressed, bored, or blue? We’ve all been there—and while these emotions often make us want to eat, they don’t mean we’re actually hungry. Reaching for our favorite foods seems like a comforting idea, but when we eat with this sort of motivation, we often overdo it and end up feeling even worse. This can lead to a vicious cycle of emotional eating and guilt.

Next time you feel down, try writing down how you’re feeling or give yourself 20 minutes before diving into your comfort foods. You may realize that you’re not actually hungry, on top of starting the process of working through whatever is on your mind.

Bad Habit #7: Eating Too Fast

Crazy-busy days often lead us to eat on-the-run instead of at the table. But unless you’re planning on entering a hot dog eating contest (not recommended), it’s worth taking the time to slow down and just eat. When we rush through a meal, we often end up eating more than our body needs to feel satisfied.

Fun fact: It often takes about 20 minutes after you start eating for your brain to realize that your stomach is adequately full. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology found that the faster people reported eating, the higher their body mass indexes (BMIs) tended to be.

So sloooooow down! Take a few deep breaths before you begin your meal and put your fork down in between bites. It sounds silly, but you can even try closing your eyes as you chew to really tune into the textures and flavors of your food. These simple little tactics will not only help you enjoy your meal more, they’ll also keep you from overeating—good news for your pant size.

Bad Habit #8: Eating Because There’s Food In Front Of You

Whether it’s bagels at an early office meeting or dessert that comes with a fixed-price dinner—we often end up eating just because the food is there. And this extra, unplanned eating can be a problem when it means taking in more calories than our body needs.

Stay hydrated throughout the day so that you don’t confuse thirst for hunger in these random moments, and ask yourself, “Do I really feel hungry?” before grabbing that leftover meeting muffin. Just because it’s in front of you, doesn’t mean you need it!

Related: Shop a variety of health-conscious snacks for in-between meals.

7 Snack Combos That’ll Fill You Up FAST

When we’re I-could-eat-a-horse hungry, it’s pretty easy for healthy eating to go out the window. At this point, vending machine chocolate bars practically wink at you.

To prevent these sorts of tempting moments from taking over, the smartest plan of action is to eat satisfying foods. To do this, you’ll need a combo of protein, whole-grain carbs, and healthy fats. The wholesome carbs provide energy, while the protein and healthy fats slow down your digestion, keeping your blood sugar levels stable and you feeling full for longer.

These seven power combos are my go-to eats for keeping my belly happy until my next meal:

  1. Whole-Grain Toast With Nut Butter

Whether I’m running out the door or packing snacks for a flight, one of my fave snacks is crunchy nut butter on whole-grain toast. So many of us are still fat-phobic, but fat is the nutrient that keeps us full for the longest! The monounsaturated fats in nut butter can support heart health—win! Plus, whole-grain breads take longer to break down and contain more fiber and nutrients than refined grains, so they make for a satisfying and healthy option. I like Dave’s Killer Bread because just one slice contains five grams of protein and 260 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids.

  1. Chia Pudding

Make this snack ahead of time and keep it stashed in the fridge for smart snacking when hanger strikes. Combine one cup almond milk, one teaspoon almond butter, two tablespoons chia seeds, a quarter-teaspoon vanilla extract, a pinch of cinnamon and cocoa powder, and blueberries in a jar. Stir and store in the fridge overnight. Chia pudding packs protein (from the chia seeds and almond butter), calcium (from the almond milk, which is usually fortified), and fiber and antioxidants (from the fruit). Talk about well-rounded.

Related: Get your on-the-go snack fix with a protein bar.

  1. High-Fiber Cereal And Milk

Grab a bowl and a spoon and prepare to make one of the quickest snacks in the book. Look for whole-grain cereal that contains at least five grams of fiber and less than five grams of sugar per serving. Plenty of cereals are fortified with essential nutrients like iron, too, which are hard to come by in a lot of snack foods. You can also add fresh fruit and chopped, unsalted nuts to your bowl to add extra vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and healthy fats to your snack. Dairy milk provides nine essential vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium and vitamin D, but if you’re lactose intolerant or vegan, you can go for a plant-based milk, like unsweetened almond milk, instead.

  1. Egg And Avocado Muffins

Egg muffins are another great make-ahead snack for supremely satisfying nutrition in a pinch. My California avocado egg muffins are an eggs-cellent (sorry, had to), source of protein and the yolks are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that support eye health. They also provide vitamins A and B12, and selenium, which supports your immune system. And who doesn’t love avocado? This satiating source of monounsaturated fats also contains an array of 20 vitamins and minerals, including potassium, vitamins C, E, K, and B-6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, and magnesium.

Related: Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?

  1. Toasted Whole-Grain Waffle With Cottage Cheese

Don’t you love the scent of a toasted waffle? Try topping a whole-wheat waffle with two tablespoons of low-fat cottage cheese, pear slices, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Cottage cheese is loaded with protein and the pear provides fiber and antioxidants, two things we can’t get enough of!

  1. Greek Yogurt Dip With Veggie Sticks

Too many store-bought dips are loaded with fat and sodium—while skimping on the nutrients. DIY your dip by mixing your favorite seasonings and spices into a few dollops of plain Greek yogurt. I practically drool just thinking about Penzey’s Turkish spices, which includes turmeric, curry, paprika, and a number of other spices. A cup of Greek yogurt provides about 15 grams of protein and 20 percent of your daily calcium needs. Some of my favorite dipping veggies are carrots, zucchini strips, sugar snap peas, and jicama, which are all delightfully crunchy.

  1. Sweet Potato And Greek Yogurt Smoothie

This delicious drink makes for an easy, nutrient-packed snack. Blend the following: half a baked sweet potato, half a cup Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla), half a banana, half a cup of skim milk, and two ice cubes into a smoothie. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A, which is important for good vision and clear skin, and a good source of vitamin C, fiber, B vitamins, and potassium. Plus, you’ll get some potassium from the banana, and calcium and protein from the yogurt and milk.

Related: How To Make The Best Smoothie For Your Goals

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday HealthBetter Homes & GardensWomen’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

 

Keep this infographic handy for a satisfying snack idea in a pinch:

8 Nutritionists Share The Best Low-Carb Snacks To Keep You Full And Satisfied

As much as we may love them, carbs get a bad rap. And that’s probably because they’re a little confusing. Carbs are our body’s primary energy source, and whole-food sources of carbs (like whole grains, fruit, veggies, yogurt, and legumes) also provide a variety of valuable nutrients.

It’s the carbs from sugar or refined foods, like white bread, that tend to be limited in their nutritional value. They can wreak havoc on our blood sugar levels, often leading to bloating, fatigue, and even weight gain when consumed in excess. But, heck, when portions aren’t in check, even those healthy carb sources can keep you from feeling svelte!

Research suggests carb-controlled diets can help stabilize blood sugar—which is crucial for those with diabetes or hypoglycemia—and reduce triglyceride levels, which cuts risk for heart disease. But because wholesome carb sources contain other nutritional benefits—on top of your body needing fuel—I don’t recommend completely ditching carbs long-term, even when you’re trying to lose weight. (I’ve seen severe carb restriction lead to carb overload too many times.) Still, though, your health—and midsection—will thank you for cutting back on those processed, sugary carbs.

Related: What You Should Know If You’re Considering Cutting Refined Carbs

So if you’re looking for carb-controlled snacks, but don’t want to go full-on Paleo or Whole30, these satisfying, nutritionist-approved bites should squelch that stomach rumbling between meals:

chicken jerky sized

  1. Chicken Jerky

This portable, protein-rich snack can be a good on-the-go nibble when you’re going easy on the carbs. Your average serving of chicken jerky comes in around 80 calories, with nine grams of protein, three or four grams of fat, three grams of carbs, and three grams of sugar. Many jerky varieties are packed with sodium, so look for an option with less than 300 milligrams.

nuts sized

  1. Nuts

A handful of nuts is one of the easiest, most satisfying snacks in the book. And they provide a nice balance of protein, fat, and fiber without many carbs, says Sharon Palmer, R.D.N. An ounce of nuts weighs in at about 160 calories, six grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, three grams of fiber, and six grams of carbs—though exact nutritional info varies from nut to nut. Just go for an unsalted variety to avoid unnecessary sodium and keep thirst at bay, she says.

apple almond butter sized

  1. Apple & Almond Butter

Camilla Lee R.D.N., owner of Bloom Wellness, munches on this crunchy, creamy apple-and-almond butter combo when she has a hankering for something sweet and satiating. It packs antioxidants from the apple in addition to healthy fat, fiber, and protein from the nut butter. A small, peeled apple with two tablespoons of almond butter makes for a balanced snack when your inner hunger monster is really rearing its head. The combo clocks in around 265 calories, with seven grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, six grams of fiber, and 23 grams of carbs.

Related: 4 Deliciously Sweet Snacks That’ll Help Stop Cravings In Their Tracks

chicken salad sized

  1. Protein & Produce Bento Box

A container of fresh veggies and pre-made protein can help you tackle hunger when you’re on-the-go, says Julie Stefanski, MEd, R.D.N., C.S.S.D., L.D.N., C.D.E. Stefanski recommends packing chunks of grilled chicken or cheese for your protein, along with produce like avocado (which pack heart-healthy fats that may reduce cholesterol levels), and grape tomatoes (which are rich in the antioxidant lycopene).

PB carrots sized

  1. Baby Carrots & Peanut Butter

Carrots are an excellent source of beta carotene, an antioxidant that’s essential for eye health, while peanut butter provides decadent, healthy fat and protein to keep you feeling full, says Lauren Manganiello, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. A combo of 12 baby carrots with two tablespoons of peanut butter is about 250 calories, with 9 grams of protein, 18 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, and 16 grams of carbs.

blueberry yogurt sized.jpg
photo: Mary Ellen Phipps
  1. Blueberry Pistachio Frozen Yogurt

The pistachios’ healthy fats and blueberries’ light sweetness really jazz up the Greek yogurt in this recipe from Mary Ellen Phipps, M.P.H., R.D.N., L.D., owner of Milk & Honey Nutrition. This sweet snack (or dessert!) is 235 calories, with 18 grams of protein, 12 grams of fat, three grams of fiber, and 18 grams of carbs. Just make sure to read your labels and go for the Greek yogurt with the lowest sugar count, she says.

egg salad veggie sized
photo: Trish Casey
  1. Egg Salad With Veggie Sticks

Eggs are budget-friendly proteins that supply lutein and zeaxanthin (nutrients that promote eye health), among other important vitamins, like vitamin D. This four-ingredient egg salad from Trish Casey, MS, RDN, LDN, co-owner of Advanced Nutrition Consultants, makes a great dip for veggie sticks, like baby carrots, celery, or raw zucchini. A serving of the egg salad is just about 100 calories, and provides 10 grams of protein, six grams of fat, and five grams of carbs. It’s a great (and unexpected!) high-protein, low-carb snack.

nut bites sized.jpg
photo: Amy Gorin
  1. Almond Pistachio Bites

These flavorful nut bites from Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., are the perfect make-ahead snack for when you need to satisfy your sweet tooth in a pinch. Each bite contains oats, nuts, and seeds, and is flavored with vanilla extract and unsweetened cocoa powder—no added sugar! One bite clocks in at 180 calories, with six grams of protein, 13 grams of fat, five grams of fiber, and 12 grams of carbs.

Related: Find a low-carb protein bar for grab-and-go nutrition.

 Pin this handy infographic for the next time you need a healthy snack idea in a flash: 

Low Carb Snacks.jpg

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday HealthBetter Homes & GardensWomen’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

Why Everyone Needs To Stop Hating On White Potatoes

Poor potatoes—they’re so misunderstood. People think that because taters are white in color and contain carbs that they’re an unhealthy food. But that just ain’t true!

First, let’s talk about this ‘avoiding white foods’ myth that seems to be everywhere. We always hear that we should ‘eat the rainbow,’ since a colorful plate ensures a variety of powerful vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But that doesn’t mean that white produce like mushrooms, cauliflower, onions, garlic,—and of course, potatoes—are any less valuable. These rather bland-looking foods still offer nutritional benefits, often including fiber and antioxidants, so the color white definitely has a place on the health spectrum (when it’s produce, not white bread).

Still don’t believe me? Hear me out—and then give yourself permission to go pick up some potatoes:

  1. They’re not high in calories.

Though we seem to think of potatoes as being calorie bombs, your average white potato comes in around 165 calories. That puts the half a baked potato we all know and love at about 82 calories—not bad, right?

It’s often what we put on our taters that gets us into trouble. A couple tablespoons of butter, some bacon bits, and a big ‘ole dollop of sour cream can really rack up the calories. Instead, try using plain Greek yogurt, mustard, or horseradish instead of those fat-laden, nutritionally-lame condiments.

  1. They won’t drive you into carb overload.

That 165-calorie potato contains 37 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber. The fiber in that tater will slow down your body’s absorption of the carbs, lessening its impact on your blood sugar and keeping you satisfied.

  1. They’re more nutrient-packed than you think.

When it comes to potassium, we think of bananas as the gold standard. But it’s potatoes that actually deserve the glory. While a banana contains 422 milligrams of potassium, a medium baked potato (with the skin) packs 951 milligrams. Betchya didn’t know that one!

Plus, potatoes also provide vitamin C (perhaps the best-known antioxidant, which helps support healthy tissues and gums), vitamin B6 (which is important for a healthy nervous system), and magnesium (which helps supports your heart function and keeps your GI tract moving). And, fun fact: vitamin C enhances our absorption of iron, so having a side of potatoes with meat or poultry can help you get the most of that important mineral, which we need in order to produce a part of our blood cells, called hemoglobin.

  1. They make for supreme post-workout eats.

Because of potatoes’ carb and potassium content, they make a great addition to your post-workout grub—especially if you’d rather have something savory instead of a sweet, sweet banana. Your body needs carbs to replenish the fuel you used up during exercise and to store energy for your next workout. And since you lose some potassium (which is key for heart, nerve, and muscle function) in your sweat, you’ll need to replace that through food, too.

Related: The Best Post-Workout Snack For Your Goals

We’re total potato-heads in my house! One of my favorite ways to eat spuds is tossed in with other veggies and then roasted. But I also love a classic baked potato topped with cottage cheese—not very colorful, I know, but pair it with a salad and you’ve got a powerhouse variety of valuable nutrients.

And in the spring and summer, this red, white, and blue potato salad is one of my go-to’s. Talk about a patriotic dish!

red white blue potatoes.jpg
photo: Bonnie Taub-Dix

Red, White & Blue Potato Salad

You’ll need:

  • ½ pound each: red, white, and purple potatoes
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • ¼ cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup carrots, shredded
  • ¼ cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Microwave the potatoes on high for nine to 11 minutes, or until tender. When cooled, cut potatoes into pieces and combine in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients. Toss gently to coat evenly. Serve warm or refrigerate for at least an hour to serve cold.

Per one 2/3 cup serving: 140 calories, 25g carbs, 3.5g fat, 3g protein, 2g fiber, 2g sugar.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

7 ‘Shrooms You Should Be Eating For Major Health Benefits

The selection of mushrooms in produce aisles everywhere has been expanding lately, and for good reason. Mushrooms are loaded with nutritional value, while being low in calories—yet many people overlook them because, well, they’re a little weird.

Yes, a mushroom is a fungus. Sure, that doesn’t sound too appealing, but we’re not talking about toe fungus here! If there’s a type of fungus you do want in your life, it’s mushrooms. Consider this: Mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D you’ll find in the produce aisle, and unless you drink fortified milk or eat cod liver oil, it’s pretty hard to get in your diet. They also contain some fiber—about a gram per cup. While that might not sound like much, the type of fiber is beta-glucan, which is beneficial for blood sugar and cholesterol management. Oh, and did I mention a cup of mushrooms is only 20 calories?

Also, mushrooms tantalize your tastebuds with something called ‘umami’ (pronounced o’o-MAH-mee’), which is the fifth element of taste after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Mushrooms are dynamic because they’re savory, with a hearty flavor that comes to life even more when they’re cooked. They taste almost meaty, but without the fat and cholesterol found in many animal proteins.

Not sure what variety to pick up on your next grocery run? Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular types of mushrooms—and what makes each so great:

White button mushrooms: Also known as ‘crimini mushrooms,’ these are probably the most common type of mushrooms you’ll see at salad bars and supermarkets. These guys contain selenium, a trace mineral that’s important for cognitive function and a healthy immune system—and supports prostate health.

Portobello mushrooms: Portobellos are an excellent source of riboflavin (also known as vitamin B2), a vitamin that is important for energy production because it helps the body break down carbohydrates into sugar for fuel. Portobellos are also a good source of selenium.

Porcini mushrooms: Many of us don’t seem to get enough potassium—but luckily porcini mushrooms are a good source of this mineral, which keeps your brain, heart, and muscles functioning properly. Porcinis also contain ergosterol, a compound needed to make vitamin D3. Finally, these mushrooms possess antioxidant properties that may help the body ward off damage from free radicals.

Related: What Makes Antioxidants So Good For You, Anyway?

Reishi mushrooms: This variety is trendy right now for its potential immune system and cardiovascular benefits. These ‘shrooms pack beta-glucan, that type of fiber I mentioned earlier, which also helps activate and support the function of immune cells. Reishi mushrooms also contain ganoderic acid, a substance that is said to support healthy cholesterol levels.

Shiitake mushrooms: Shiitakes are a good source of soluble fiber, which supports healthy cholesterol levels. They also contain those beta-glucans found in reishi mushrooms. Plus, shiitakes contain a compound called lentinan, which helps to strengthen the immune system.

Enoki mushrooms: These ‘shrooms are rich in B vitamins, particularly niacin (vitamin B3), which promote cardiovascular health and are key for energy production.

Maitake or ‘Hen of the Woods’ mushrooms: These mushrooms actually resemble the feathers of a fluffed chicken and are a popular ingredient in dietary supplements and powders. Preliminary animal studies suggest these funky-looking mushrooms may promote a healthy insulin response and support healthy blood sugar levels.

You can probably find many of these mushrooms fresh in the produce section of the supermarket, but you can also buy them canned.

Cleaning fresh mushrooms can be a little tricky: They’re all dirty but you’re not supposed to wash them! (Trust me, they get slimy and lose flavor.) Instead, try wiping your mushrooms off with a damp paper towel before prepping and cooking them.

Ready to make these tasty fungi a more regular part of your grub? Try sautéing mushrooms with other veggies and folding them into an omelet or adding them to your next stir fry. You can even mix diced mushrooms into ground meat or poultry when making burgers—their flavor and texture fit right in.

One of my favorite ways to eat mushrooms is simple: I sauté a variety of mushrooms with olive oil and garlic. Fragrant and flavorful!

Related: Pack ‘shrooms into smoothies and more with a supplement.

Your refrigerator guide to fungi: 

7 Types Of Mushrooms.jpg

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

The Highly Underrated Protein Source You’re Probably Not Eating

When you think about dairy and protein, your mind most likely jumps to Greek yogurt. But there’s another powerful dairy protein that’s probably not on your radar: cottage cheese.

I know, I know…cottage cheese is lumpy and tasteless. But before you close out of this tab, hear me out! This dairy superstar deserves a second chance.

Cottage cheese is created by separating the “curd” from the “whey” in milk by heating it and treating it with vinegar. The liquid that remains is your whey—and can be used to make hard cheeses like Swiss or cheddar—while the solid curd is your cottage cheese.

You’ll find this soft cheese in the dairy aisle, alongside the ever-coveted Greek yogurt. Like with yogurt, you can usually choose from non-fat, two percent fat, and four percent fat options. But no matter what the fat content, you win with protein: An eight-ounce serving of cottage cheese provides more than 20 grams!

Here’s what else you get in your average serving:

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With less than a 100-calorie difference between fat-free and four percent fat cheese, picking the variety you want largely comes down to personal preference. Like other dairy proteins, cottage cheese is a ‘complete protein,’ meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs to build muscle (but can’t produce on its own). A major selling point in my book.

Not to mention, cottage cheese is also packed with other important nutrients. First (you guessed it) is calcium, a mineral we need for proper bone development and strength. Cottage cheese provides just shy of 10 percent of your daily needs. Then there’s selenium, a mineral and antioxidant that helps our bodies fight free radicals. A serving of cottage cheese provides nearly 30 percent of your daily selenium needs. And then there’s vitamin B12, which is crucial for energy production. You’ll get about 24 percent of your daily B12 needs in eight ounces of this lumpy goodness.

Related: 15 Things All Protein Lovers Should Know

Just make sure to check the nutrition label and ingredient list before buying your next tub. Cottage cheeses that come with jelly or other mix-ins might be laden with added sugar. Additionally, some varieties of cottage cheese are high in sodium, so be sure to choose the option that best suits your particular needs.

cottage cheese toast

Since cottage cheese is pretty bland in taste, it makes the perfect canvas for a sweet or savory snack or meal. One of my favorite ways to eat cottage cheese: atop a toasted whole-grain waffle with a sprinkle of cinnamon and banana slices. But you can also sub in cottage cheese pretty much any time you’d use Greek yogurt. Try adding some to your next smoothie or bowl of oatmeal. For a savory snack, top a baked sweet potato with cottage cheese and your favorite spices.

So, are you ready to give it a chance?

Related: Find a protein supplement for when you need a boost on-the-go.

*Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

7 Of The Most Nutrient-Dense Foods You Can Eat

We all know we should be eating ‘nutrient-dense’ foods—but what does that even mean? Here’s my quick definition: Nutrient-dense foods are rich in valuable nutrients and beneficial components like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, to name a few. The calories found in these foods do your body good.

For example, you get more health bang per your calorie buck with a nutrient-dense berry than with that piece of candy. Think of it this way: “While one calorie of a berry provides carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, one calorie of a piece of candy contains only carbohydrates and added sugar,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D.

To provide your body with as many nutrients as possible, you want to fill your diet with a variety of these foods. “Nutrient-dense foods may be good fats, fiber, high quality protein, or natural plant compounds, but no one food can be everything to everyone,” says Jenna A. Bell, Ph.D., R.D., Senior Vice President, Director of Food & Wellness at Pollock Communications. So to help you make the most of these super-valuable foods, I recruited my nutrition pro pals to help you fill you shopping cart, and your plate, with the good stuff. Below are seven of the most nutrient-dense foods we came up with!

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“When I think of nutrient-dense foods, I typically think of dark-colored fruits and vegetables, like red cabbage,” says Rizzo. Not only is red cabbage high in fiber and low in calories, but it contains antioxidants called anthocyanins that are typically found in blue and purple plants. These compounds may help to reduce inflammation, boost cognitive function, and protect cells from damage.

One of Rizzo’s favorite ways to use red cabbage: a tri-color spring salad. This fun take on slaw is topped with a dressing that combines Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and honey.

Related: Not All Calories Are Created Equal—Here’s Why

beans
Because they pack plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins (like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, and biotin), minerals (like iron, magnesium, phosphate, calcium, zinc, and potassium), and phytonutrients, beans are personal favorite of author Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D.

What better way to enjoy beans than a warm bowl of chili? Ward’s recipe has some meat in it, but you can go meatless by swapping out the ground beef or turkey breast for extra black or red kidney beans or another type of bean, like white kidney beans.

cauliflower
A member of the cruciferous veggie family, which also includes broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, cauliflower contains powerful compounds known as glucosinolates, which may help protect cells against cancer. It also packs vitamins C and K, as well as other nutrients including folate and fiber.

This roasted veggie recipe from Rosanne Rust M.S.,R.D.N., L.D.N., author of DASH Diet For Dummies, includes cauliflower, garbanzo beans, and Swiss chard, for a side dish that’s as flavorful as it is nutritious.

avocado
Nope, nutrient-dense foods aren’t always low-calorie! Higher-calorie foods like almonds and avocados deserve a spot in your nutrient-filled grocery cart, but just be mindful of portion sizes, suggests sports dietitian Kelly Jones M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N. Avocados contain valuable nutrients like heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, potassium, and vitamin E. (A serving of avocado is about a quarter of a medium fruit.)

Jones likes to get creative with avocado, using it to make avocado-walnut pesto in this spaghetti squash recipe. It makes for a delicious, plant-based meal!

chick peas
As a vegetarian, Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., loves chickpeas because they provide filling protein and an excellent source of satiating fiber. Chickpeas offer many other nutrients, including iron and manganese.

Gorin likes to toss chickpeas in spices and roast them for a crunchy snack with a kick. Her recipe includes flavor options to satisfy your cravings, whether you’re feeling Italian seasoning or a paprika-cayenne combo.

tomatoes
Rich in the antioxidant lycopene, tomatoes are a power food when it comes to fighting off damage in your cells. (And lycopene is even more powerful when tomatoes are cooked—so get that marinara sauce bubbling!)

This fresh and simple tomato-basil salad recipe from Lauren Manganiello, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., C.P.T., provides a powerhouse of nutrients and tons of flavor.

green lentils
One cup of lentils contains 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber—plus magnesium. Talk about a nutritious bang for your calorie buck!

Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, author of Plant-Powered for Life loves this French green lentil salad with cherry tomatoes as a quick nutritious meal or side dish.

Related: Find yourself the perfect plant-based protein supplement.

*Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

A Nutritionist Shares Easy Ways To Eat Healthy While Traveling

Like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, in my heart I believe ‘there’s no place like home.’ Especially when it comes to getting your hands on good food.

But when you’re traveling, it seems your only options are greasy gas station bites, airport fast-food chains, and hotel buffets. If you’re watching your weight, dealing with a sensitive stomach, or just trying to eat the most wholesome and nutritious diet possible, travel can be challenging. (As a nutritionist, trust me, I know the struggle.)

Whether you’re taking a plane, train, or automobile, I’m here to help you tackle healthy eating on-the-go. Here’s a taste of how I keep my nutrition on-point when I’m away from home.

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Before You Leave

Just as important as packing clothing, packing snacks is key! I usually fill a zippered bag with baggies of nuts and dried fruits and stash a few KIND bars in my suitcase and purse. Because these bars contain a balanced medley of protein and healthy fat (from nuts), and contain minimal sugar, they help me squash hunger when faced with flight delays. Plus, they keep me from grabbing yet another mid-day gelato in Italy or pastry in Paris—especially when an indulgent dinner meal is to come later.

Related: 9 Healthy Snacks Nutritionists Always Keep On Hand

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At The Airport

Grabbing a snack or meal is how so many of us kill waiting time at the airport. Though there aren’t always tons of healthy options, you can usually grab a wrap, salad or bistro box. I’ll often get Starbucks’ Bistro Box, which includes a combo of cheese, crackers, and fruit, to eat before boarding or to bring with me on the plane.

Once you’re on the plane, your food options are pretty limited, so don’t rely on being served anything nutritious. For short flights, I usually stash individual packets of almond butter in my carry-on to pair with that little bag of pretzels you’re often offered.

When it comes to longer flights, I usually pass on the carb-y bread roll and skip dessert because they’re generally not worth breaking into the calorie bank for! I’d rather save myself for desserts I can choose and savor. Planning ahead and packing your own grub is your only way of guaranteeing a healthy in-flight meal.

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At Gas Stations

When I think ‘gas station’ I think of beef jerky, candy bars, and soda. Three things that would never be on my shopping list. I would, however, pick up a KIND bar, a bag of baked chips, pretzels, or popcorn if I didn’t prepare a snack ahead of time when hitting the road. If I can find a mozzarella string-cheese or hard-boiled egg, at least I’ll grab those for a protein fix and pair them with a carb-y snack (like pretzels) for steadier, longer-lasting energy.

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At Buffets

Instead of treating a buffet like an all-you-can-eat opportunity, treat it as if you’re ordering in a restaurant—where even if you enjoyed your meal, you wouldn’t ask the server to bring you another full course of it! Survey all of your options before filling up your plate, then take what you want the first time and don’t feel like you have to go back for seconds.

Breakfast buffets are the most challenging for me since I’m a sucker for waffles, pancakes, muffins, and omelet stations. So if I’ll be there a few days, I try to choose one of the above on each day—and not all at once. For lunch and dinner, I go for salads, grilled veggies and a protein, like chicken or fish. Some sweet pastries look a lot better than they actually taste, so I generally take a pass on dessert. A few spoons of ice cream, however, might find its way to my plate.

Related: 13 Possible Reasons Why You’re Hungry ALL The Time

winery

At The Pool Bar, Winery, Etc.

We tend to overlook ‘liquid calories’—particularly those that come from alcoholic beverages. When we don’t chew, the calories don’t count, right? Sadly, that’s not the case.

You probably think a swimming pool-sized frozen margarita packs tons of calories, but did you know that even a nice, clear, colorless gin and tonic packs over 250 calories?

Regardless, beverages are very much a part of every vacation I take. Who doesn’t love a trip to a winery? But instead of making it a rule that you have a drink every time you sit down to eat, pick a time of day that a drink will give you the most pleasure—whether it’s lunch at a bistro or at dinner after a long day.

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Find Yourself A Street Market

When I travel, I probably spend more time at markets than in museums. I love the excitement of open-air markets, with vendors speaking different languages and a bounty of fruits and veggies on display. These markets are great for picking up produce, cheese, and wine for a picnic or for stocking up on fresh foods you can stash for later. Fresh fruits and veggies make a refreshing late afternoon pick-me-up when you’re on-the-go.

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About That Mini-Bar…

We’ve all been there—you get back to the hotel at the end of the day and the goodie-filled mini-bar practically calls your name. But those stocked snacks often cost major calories—and dollars.

This is where those snacks you packed earlier come in handy. Otherwise, hit a nearby supermarket to stock up on bottled water and snacks like energy bars, unsalted nuts, and produce to keep your wallet and waistline in check.

Related: Find snacks that’ll satisfy your taste buds—and keep your health in check.

The bottom line is this: No matter where you’re traveling—be it at a beach resort, a national park, or a foreign country—be prepared to modify your eating habits. A trip or vacation is probably not the time to go on a strict diet, but by eating mindfully, you can still keep your nutrition on track while enjoying  the food and experience of wherever you’re traveling.

 

*Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

9 Ways To Take Canned Tuna To The Next Level

Funky-smelling or not, eating canned tuna is one of the most affordable ways to get lean protein and an array of important nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids (which support your heart health and mood) and potassium (which helps maintain healthy blood pressure). This protein-filled fish keeps you satisfied and full with almost 17 grams of protein in three ounces, which can help promote a healthy weight.

Luckily, since many healthy eaters are concerned about issues of sustainability and mercury levels, many wild-caught, sustainable brands have hit supermarket shelves, and to this day, I still have lunch dates with tuna regularly.

I get it, though: Your go-to mayo-filled tuna salad gets old quick. So to help you add more variation your weekly menu, I asked a few of my colleagues to think outside the can and share some of their favorite ways to eat tuna.

hummus tuna salad
photo: Elizabeth Shaw
  1. Hummus Tuna Salad

This healthier version of tuna salad is packed with protein and a secret ingredient: hummus! “Instead of a traditional mayo, this recipe uses plant-based hummus to create a creamy, delicious, and nutritious salad,” says Elizabeth Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T., nutrition communications consultant at Shaw’s Simple Swaps. Whether you pair it with whole-grain bread or dollop it onto a crisp salad, this is definitely not your grandmother’s tuna salad.

tuscan tuna bowl
photo: Liz Weiss
  1. Tuscan Tuna Bowls 

Who doesn’t love a trendy bowl meal? Adding canned tuna makes for a portable, high-protein bowl. “These Tuscan tuna bowls are made with tuna, edamame, tomatoes, whole-wheat pasta, kale (or spinach), and avocados,” says Liz Weiss, M.S., R.D.N., of Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen. Talk about a colorful and flavor-filled work lunch or weeknight dinner.

balsamic tuna sorghum salad
photo: Lauren Harris-Pincus
  1. Balsamic Tuna Sorghum Salad

“If you’ve never prepared sorghum, this dish is such an easy way to introduce yourself to the chewy whole grain,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., owner Nutrition Starring You. “This low-calorie lunch is filled with protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats.”

curried tuna cups
photo: Gabrielle Vetere
  1. Curried Tuna Salad Cups

Betchya never thought to curry your canned fish! “The avocado oil in this recipe provides healthy monounsaturated fats that combine with the immune-friendly curcuminoids in curry powder for these inflammation-fighting tuna salad cups,” says Gabriella Vetere, R.D.N., wellness expert and dietitian in the Silicon Valley and founder of Macrobalanced. Vetere loves to eat this meal post-workout for a dose of protein and an anti-inflammatory boost.

stuffed avocado tuna
photo: Lindsey Pine
  1. Tuna Salad-Stuffed Grilled Avocados

Here comes a fun meal that just happens to pack protein, omega-3s, monounsaturated fat, and fiber. “I adore this recipe because the serving vessel for the tuna salad is also edible!” says Lindsey Pine M.S., R.D.N., C.S.S.D., C.L.T., and owner of TastyBalance Nutrition. “The creaminess of the avocado really pairs well with the acid from the vinegar and tomatoes and the pungent flavor of the mustard.

Related: 9 Fatty Foods That Are Good For Your Health

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photo: Chelsea Amer
  1. Healthy Tuna Nicoise-Stuffed Baked Potatoes

“The combination of protein in the tuna and the complex carbohydrates and potassium in the potato makes this meal perfect after a workout to fuel muscle recovery,” says Chelsey Amer, M.S., R.D.N., New York City-based private practice dietitian and creator of C it Nutritionally. Beat it, bacon bits and cheese!

tuna burgers
photo: Elizabeth Ward
  1. Tuna Burgers With Smashed Avocado And Tomato

Save a spot on the grill for—canned tuna? “These burgers are super easy to make and pack protein and omega-3s,” says Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D.N., author of Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy. The recipe also provides heart-healthy fats from the avocado and two servings of whole grains from the bun.

Related: How To Adjust Your Diet If You’re Cutting Refined Carbs

tuna greek salad
photo: Judy Barbe
  1. Greek Salad With Tuna

This recipe packs two economical protein sources: tuna and beans. “Beans’ high-fiber means they can help promote healthy blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and aid in blood sugar regulation—plus that dose of fiber can keep you feeling full longer,” Judy Barbe, R.D.N., recipe developer, speaker, and creator of LiveBest.

tuna pesto salad
photo: Christy Wilson
  1. Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad

This meal will practically transport you to the Mediterranean. “My tuna pesto pasta salad is quick to prepare, good for your heart and brain, and bursting with flavor,” says Christy Wilson, R.D.N., nutrition counselor at University of Arizona private consultant. “I love using chunk light tuna because it has a mild flavor, is available in practically every grocery store, and I can easily substitute it in for chicken or meat in several recipes.”

 

*Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

One Nutritionist’s Entire Day Of Eating, In Photos

Let me tell you a little about my relationship with food: I love to read about it, write about it, talk about it, learn about it, shop for it, cook it, share it, and, of course, eat it.

Being a registered dietitian nutritionist helps me create a balanced plate that will simultaneously please my palate and my pant size, without depriving myself of what I love or compromising flavor.

Although more hectic days might not include all of my favorite foods, I never eat anything that I don’t enjoy, I never skip a meal, and rarely do I go without a snack. I may throw together a basic dish when crunched for time, but I find chopping, slicing, and dicing to be therapeutic when I have a more flexible schedule. Side note: Cooking is especially fun when paired with a glass of wine, background music, and good company.

Here’s a taste of what a typical day of eats might look like for me. I enjoy lots of variety, and these meals keep me going with a smile on my face!

Breakfast

I’m sure you’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While I might disagree when I’m starving for lunch or looking forward to a delish sit-down dinner, breakfast is essential for supplying your brain and body with a jump-start, whether you spend the morning in a boardroom or a classroom.

Related: Are You Making This Crucial Breakfast Mistake?

breakfast muffins
photo: Bonnie Taub-Dix

I bake mini muffins every week and I usually make enough to feed a small army—this recipe makes two full loaves, or about 45 mini muffins. I healthy-fied it by replacing some white flour with whole-wheat pastry flour. You can even swap avocado in for the butter and applesauce in for the oil.

The nuts not only add a yummy crunch, but make for a more satiating breakfast. The muffins are pretty low in sugar and they freeze beautifully—just throw them in the microwave before walking out the door!

I usually pair two (okay, sometimes three) with about a half cup or so of cottage or ricotta cheese. I always add some sort of protein to my meals to help keep me feeling full for a longer period of time.

Lunch

At lunchtime, I may be on my way out the door or sitting at my computer. (I’ll admit a tight story deadline occasionally keeps me company while I eat lunch). Like breakfast, lunch consists of a combo of carbs, protein, and healthy fats. It’s the trifecta for satisfying food.

egg avocado toast
photo: Bonnie Taub-Dix

I love avocado, whole-grain and seedy bread (Dave’s Killer Bread is our family’s fave), eggs, cheese, and of course, veggies. A combo of all of the above makes me smile, and takes just a few minutes to prepare.

While my bread is toasting, I combine sliced grape tomatoes, fresh spinach, sliced fresh mushrooms, a little shredded cheese, seasoning, one egg, and three egg whites in a mixing bowl. Then I scramble this heavenly mixture together in a fry pan, mash some avocado on my toast, and voila! It’s a decadent combo of creamy, crunchy and yummy. It’s hard to go back to work after this lunch but the promise of an up-coming afternoon snack helps me get back to business.

Afternoon Snack

Skipping a decent snack could welcome a bad mood, make you feel light-headed, or lead you to the vending machine. Don’t wait for hunger to strike—plan snacks ahead of time!

Related: 9 Healthy Snacks Nutritionists Always Keep On Hand

yogurt snack
photo: Bonnie Taub-Dix

When I’m at home, I might put together a bowl of plain Greek yogurt with either fresh berries or mashed banana and cinnamon. Greek yogurt provides twice the protein of conventional types of yogurt, and it packs calcium for your bones and live cultures (a.k.a. probiotics) to make your gut happy. I might sprinkle some high-fiber cereal (most of us don’t get enough fiber!) on top for some crunchies.

kind snack
photo: Bonnie Taub-Dix

If I’m on the run, my go-to snack is a KIND bar. I keep one in my purse, a few in the glove compartment of my car, and I have plenty on hand in my pantry at home. The transparent label says it all: just five grams of sugar per bar and ingredients you’ll recognize. Plus, the protein and fat from the nuts keeps you feeling satisfied (and not looking for other snacks) until dinner. Although my fave flavors are Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt or Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond, the Dark Chocolate Almond Mint comes in at a pretty close third.

Related: Shop a variety of snacks for healthy eating on-the-go.

Dinner

On most nights, I like to cook. In fact, I consider cooking an art—not a chore! I try to create dishes that are colorful, but keep in mind that although we’re often told to “eat a rainbow,” white is a color, too! White veggies like potatoes, mushrooms and cauliflower are loaded with valuable nutrients like potassium and fiber. (BTW, did you know a baked potato has twice the potassium of a banana?)

Even if you’re ordering dinner from a restaurant, keep color and quality in mind. I like having half of my plate veggies and fruit (mostly veggies), one quarter a yummy carb (like sweet potato or whole-wheat pasta), and one quarter protein.

wine
photo: Bonnie Taub-Dix

A few nights a week, dinner is accompanied by a glass or two of wine. Calories that you don’t chew (like those from wine) can add up quickly, so I try to choose my menu ahead of time and keep portions in mind to make room for the benefits of vino. Science tells us the resveratrol in wine can be good for us, which is something worth toasting to.

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photo: Bonnie Taub-Dix

I might bake (or grill, weather permitting) a giant piece of salmon that I’ll pair with a medley of roasted veggies or a salad. The salmon is such a delicious way to provide my family with omega-3 fats, while the variety of vegetables supplies all the nutrients they need, like potassium, fiber, and a cocktail of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients found in all types of produce.

salmon burger dinner
photo: Bonnie Taub-Dix

I’ll chop and combine the extra salmon and vegetables the next day, and add some egg and breadcrumbs to make salmon burgers.

While I love to cook, that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy shortcuts! My philosophy is simple: Cook once, eat twice. Leftovers are always my goal.

Dessert

I’m sure many of you would disagree with me, but I don’t really like the idea of dessert right after dinner—especially if dinner is your biggest meal of the day. Instead, I like to have dessert a little later on when I’m less full (just not too close to bedtime!) or even in the late afternoon, when it can really stand out and be savored.

dessert
photo: Bonnie Taub-Dix

That being said, this apple cobbler is one of my favorite desserts. Not only is it lighter than a fruit pie (there’s no crust on the bottom), but it also comes in handy as a decadent topping for my morning oatmeal!

If you try any of my recipes linked in this story, I’d love to hear how they turn out. Get in touch with me on Instagram or Twitter, or through my site, Better Than Dieting!

 

*Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award.

13 Possible Reasons Why You’re Hungry ALL The Time

Feel like you have a black hole for a stomach? Bottomless pit jokes aside, there could be a very legit reason why you want to munch all day long. We asked the experts to walk us through the most common causes behind never-ending hunger—and how to deal.

  1. Your Thyroid Is Out Of Whack

Your ginormous appetite may come down to one teeny gland. The thyroid gland controls your metabolism, and therefore, the amount of grub you need in a day, explains Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, M.D., former president of the American College of Physicians and adjunct associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine. “An under-active thyroid can make you feel tired, which we often misinterpret as feeling hungry,” she says. This may be one of the reasons a sluggish thyroid (known as hypothyroidism) is often associated with weight gain.

If you suspect your thyroid may not be working at full speed, talk to your doc. Hypothyroidism can be identified with simple blood testing. Those diagnosed are often prescribed medication to get that lagging metabolism back in check.

  1. You’ve Got Other Hormonal Issues

Thyroid aside, issues related to blood sugar, insulin, and diabetes can also lead to feelings of excess hunger and even weight gain.

When you eat sugar, your body produces the hormone insulin to help control the amount of sugar in your blood, explains Fryhofer. If you chronically eat too much sugar, your body may become unable to control those blood sugar levels, and enters a state called ‘insulin resistance,’ which can eventually become type 2 diabetes. Since stable blood sugar levels are associated with satiety, having out-of-control blood sugar may contribute to feelings of hunger.

If your diet isn’t the best and you’re dealing with wonky energy and appetite levels, as well as weight gain, talk to your doc. You may need to adjust your daily grub and amount of activity, or consider medication, to get your blood sugar back under control.

Related: Check out an assortment of supplements to support your weight-management efforts.

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  1. You’re Missing Out On Sleep

Falling short on Zzz’s can lead to much more than feeling drowsy the next day. Case in point: A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine  found that people who averaged 8.5 hours of sleep per night had better weight-loss results than those who slept only 5.5 hours. The study found that the sleep-deprived group lost less fat and more lean body mass than the well-rested group.

“If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re going to have more trouble keeping your weight under control,” says Fryhofer. That’s because sleep affects the levels of hunger and satiety hormones, called ghrelin and leptin, respectively, in your body.

Related: Here’s Exactly What To Do At Night To Have A Great Sleep

  1. You’re Dehydrated

Many of us mistake thirst for hunger. Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D.N., C.F.T., of The Nutrition Twins, recommends sipping on a hydrating beverage all day long in order to avoid the confusion. “Even when you’re not dehydrated, a glass of water can take the edge off hunger,” Shames says. So if you feel overly hungry at mealtime, try drinking a glass of H20 before chowing down.

You can also help keep yourself hydrated by loading up on water-filled foods, like fruits and veggies, she says.

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  1. You’ve Got Booze In Your System

Anyone who’s ever knocked back one too many knows the temptation of late-night pizza that comes along with it. “Alcohol lowers inhibitions, while also increasing thirst, hunger and cravings,” explains Shames.

Since booze is a diuretic (making you pee more and dehydrating you), you may find yourself doing that whole mistaking-thirst-for-hunger thing we just talked about. “Make sure you’re hydrating and not responding to thirst by ordering another cocktail,” says Fryhofer. Order waters between drinks, or swap your cocktail for a sparkling water with lime.

Related: Your All-Natural Guide To Surviving A Hangover With A Smile

  1. Your Eating Schedule Is All Over The Place

Skipping breakfast may seem like a good idea when you’re running late, but it can just make you all-the-more famished later in the day. “When you skip a meal, your blood sugar drops, and you end up ravenously tearing through your next meal,” says Fryhofer.

Rollercoaster blood sugar levels can trap you in a vicious cycle of energy crashes and exhaustion, as you’re more tempted to reach for sugar to pull yourself out of zombie mode. Try to stick to a regular eating schedule and avoid skipping meals in order to keep your blood sugar stable and your appetite even-keeled. Go ahead—stash a protein bar, a handful of nuts, or a piece of fruit in your bag or car.

Pizza time!
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  1. You Need To Cut Back On Carbs

Loading up on refined carbs, like white bread and white rice, can create a vicious cycle of hunger. “Because refined carbs lack fiber to slow down their digestion, they cause an energy spike and then a crash,” says Lyssie Lakatos, R.D.N., C.F.T., the other half of The Nutrition Twins. Again, when it comes to feeling ravenous, whacked out blood sugar is a common culprit.

To slow your digestion and prevent that blood sugar spike, swap refined carbs for whole grains, or pair them with foods that contain fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, and beans.

  1. You’re Not Eating Enough Protein

Not only is protein a friend to your body’s lean mass, it’ll also help keep you satisfied until your next meal. “Protein gives you more bang for your buck because it takes longer to digest and keeps you satiated,” says Shames. Load up on lean meats, poultry, Greek yogurt, eggs, nuts, and seeds at meal- and snack-time to hold you over.

Related: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

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  1. OR—You’re Not Eating Enough Fat

Fat may be more calorie-dense than carbs or protein, but that doesn’t mean you should exclude it from your diet. While carbs take between one and four hours for your body to digest, and proteins take between four and six, fats take a whopping six to eight hours to digest, says Lakatos.

Choose your fats wisely, and go for healthy, whole-food options like avocado, olive oil, and nuts.

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

  1. You Eat Mindlessly

We know it’s easier said than done, but it’s best not to multitask while you chow down. (Yep, that includes catching up on Real Housewives or responding to work emails at dinner.) “When you eat, the stomach begins to stretch and sends a signal to the brain that you’re full,” explains Fryhofer. If we don’t eat mindfully, it’s easy to eat too quickly and ultimately overeat.

“When you’re not mindful about combining energy-revving, wholesome carbohydrates with lean proteins, your food will be digested very quickly and you will be hungry soon after,” Lakatos says. It’s no wonder we want to keep snacking long after blowing through an entire box of cheesy crackers on the couch.

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  1. You’re Stressed Out

There’s a reason a rough day at work is more likely to lead you to the drive-thru than to  the fresh salad greens in your fridge. “When you’re under a lot of stress, your adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol, which can increase your appetite,” says Fryhofer. Stress may also make you crave high-calorie comfort foods or surrender to your sweet tooth.

When your body goes into this fight-or-flight mode, it burns energy more quickly, signaling that you may need a quick energy boost from food, says Shames. Before you reach for a donut, Shames recommends doing some deep breathing to calm yourself down. “Give yourself a few minutes so that you’re better able to assess if you’re actually hungry,” she says.

Related: 12 Natural Ways To Kick Your Stress To The Curb

  1. You’re On Certain Medications

Some meds—like steroids, hormones, and antidepressants—can kick up your appetite. For example, changes in estrogen are associated with food cravings, which is why some women report a change in appetite when they go on or off the pill, says Fryhofer. She recommends talking to your doctor about this potential side-effect when considering new medications.

Just being conscious that your medication may be triggering that gotta-snack feeling, though, may help you resist the urge, she adds.

  1. You’re On Your Period

Ladies, you know how much your cycle can affect your munching habits. “After ovulation, in the second half of the cycle, the level of estradiol (which decreases appetite) falls and the level of progesterone (which stimulates appetite) rises, potentially leading to more cravings than usual,” says Shames. In other words, it’s not your imagination—your body might really be craving those chocolate-covered pretzels.

“Many women know the period munchies are something we just have to live with,” says Fryhofer. “Just make sure to have healthy snacks, like Greek yogurt or nuts, handy for your time of the month.”

Related: Load your cart with feel-good noms.