You make roughly 200 food choices every day, according to a recent study from Cornell University. That means 200 chances to make the right decision about what you should be putting into your body or 200 chances to screw up royally and fill your body with fattening, disease-promoting, nutrient-free dreck. No pressure, right?
To help you navigate this deluge of food choices, we’ve assembled a team of leading nutrition gurus and asked for their advice on picking the best foods as easily as possible. Think of the tips that follow as your foolproof guide to eating right, whether you’re picking up groceries, noshing at your favorite hangout, or just throwing something together at home. Healthy eating has never been so easy.
[PART 1] AT HOME . . . Load Up on the Good Stuff
Consider home the base for all your healthy eating. Keep it clear of the crap you know you shouldn’t be putting into your body so that whatever you pick when you’re hungry won’t leave you second-guessing yourself. We’ve put together a complete shopping list of foods you should always have onhand—everything you need to fill your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Think of these lists as the foundation for your healthy diet.
FOR THE PANTRY:
• Dried fruits (such as raisins or cranberries)
• Canned veggies and veggie-based products (including corn
and all types of tomato products)
• Canned beans (especially black, garbanzo, and kidney)
• Potatoes (including red and russet)
•Whole-wheat or oat-bran bread
• Whole-wheat English mu.ns
• Whole-wheat tortillas
• Pancake or wale mix
• Cold cereals, preferably whole-grain
• Oatmeal (unflavored instant is OK)
• Whole-wheat crackers
• Brown and/or wild rice
• Whole-wheat and regular pasta (such as penne, linguine,
• Popcorn (unsalted, bagged, or kernels)
• Whole-wheat pretzels
• Natural peanut butter
• Walnuts or almonds
• Oils (including canola and extra-virgin olive)
• Balsamic vinegar
• Nonstick cooking spray
• Vanilla extract
• Chicken broth (low-sodium)
• Plenty of spices and dried herbs (such as cayenne pepper, chili powder, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, chipotle pepper,
ginger, ground mustard, nutmeg, oregano, red pepper flakes, parsley, rosemary, and tarragon)
FOR THE FRIDGE:
• Fresh Fruit (such as apples, melon, grapefruit, red and green grapes, kiwifruit, oranges, pears, and berries)
• Raw vegetables (such as asparagus, celery, broccoli, baby carrots, onions, peppers, squash, zucchini, and tomatoes)
• Spinach salad, romaine lettuce
• 100% orange juice
• Fat-free milk
• Low-fat or nonfat plain yogurt
• Cheese (including grated Parmesan, low-fat shredded cheddar, and low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella)
• Chicken breast and turkey deli meat (low-fat, lower-sodium)
• Chunk white or light canned tuna, packed in water
• Large eggs
• Sour cream (low-fat or nonfat)
• Salad dressings such as Italian or reduced-fat ranch
• Natural or unsweetened applesauce
FOR THE FREEZER:
• Frozen veggies (chopped spinach, broccoli florets, peas, green beans, and any others you prefer—as long as they don’t have added salt)
• Frozen fruits (blueberries and any others you prefer—as long as they don’t have added sugar)
• Low-fat frozen yogurt or ice cream
• Lean ground beef
• Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• Pork chops
• Wild salmon fillets
• Whole-grain waffles
[PART 2] OUTSIDE YOUR HOUSE . . . Survive the Danger Zones
Home may be the easiest place to eat healthy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find lean, low-calorie options outside your front door, says New York–based nutritionist Elisa Zied, R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and author of So What Can I Eat? “All you have to do is plan a little more and be savvy about what you’re eating,” she says.
• Have the bread and chip baskets stripped from the table.
• Start with a bulky, low-calorie option—such as salad or broth-based soup—to fill you up with a minimum of calories.
• Split your entrée or order an appetizer and a salad.
• As you’re eating, sip your water or put your fork down between bites so you don’t inhale your meal.
• Creamy, oily sauces (order them on the side; you’ll use less); fatty cuts of meat; excessive starches (such as bread and potatoes in one meal)
• Grilled or baked meats and fish, pasta with marinara sauce, chicken or fish teriyaki, shrimp or chicken fajitas
THE FAST-FOOD JOINT
• Order your burger or sandwich plain and add your own ketchup or mustard.
• Skip the combo meals and order à la carte to avoid fries and soda (tougher on your wallet, yes, but easier on the waistline).
• Fried foods, high-calorie drinks
• A burger or chicken sandwich with garden salad and low-fat dressing
THE CATERED BUSINESS LUNCH
• Have a midmorning snack so you don’t gorge yourself.
• Fill your plate once (and only once).
• Don’t be afraid to cut things in half before putting them on
your plate, especially those king-size desserts.
• Fried, greasy foods; monster-size cookies; deli sandwiches loaded with mayonnaise or other saucytoppings
• Lean meats sans gravy or heavy sauces, whole-wheat
pasta with marinara sauce
THE SALAD BAR/DELI
• Don’t go crazy with the dressings—one spoonful is plenty.
• Slather your sandwich with ketchup, mustard, salsa, or hummus instead of butter, mayo, or cream cheese.
• Steer clear of mayonnaise-laced pasta and potato salads.
• Potential traps:
Salad toppings such as crispy fried noodles,cheese, bacon bits, or croutons
• Veggies, beans, lean deli meat on whole-wheat bread,
bean or tomato soup
[PART 3] MAKE OVER YOUR MEALS
Nobody’s perfect, of course, but if you’re like most Americans, you could stand to touch up your meals. Nothing major—just a few tweaks here and there to boost the nutritional content. See what our experts recommend for making each meal you eat even healthier.
“Eating in the morning speeds up metabolism, which aids in weight loss,” says D. Milton Stokes, R.D., a nutrition counselor in Stamford, Conn. The most complete options:
• Cereal and milk with bananas or berries
• A whole-wheat tortilla with peanut butter and fruit
• Yogurt with low-fat granola or muesli
• A whole-wheat English mun with scrambled eggs, cheese, and ham
• Oatmeal with almond slivers and fruit
Beware the portions. Guys often get sucked into overeating at lunch, especially if they haven’t eaten breakfast, says Tara Gidus, R.D., a Florida-based sports dietitian. Her favorite lunch picks:
• Soup, whole-grain crackers, yogurt, and fruit
• Chef ‘s salad with low-cal dressing, deli meat, low-fat cheese, and veggies
•A sandwich with deli lunch meat, a piece of fruit, and nuts
• A flat-bread wrap with hummus and veggies plus yogurt
Chances are this is your biggest meal of the day. Even worse? You’re probably sitting down to eat it at an ungodly hour. All that’s fine, though, as long as you keep portions in check and get a balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fats. Your best bets:
• 3 oz grilled flank (or sirloin) steak and roasted red potatoes
• 4 oz baked halibut, a tossed salad, and wild rice
• A bean burrito (black beans, whole-wheat flour tortilla, slice of cheese, and onions and peppers sautéed in 2 tsp olive oil)
• 1 cup fusilli or penne pasta topped with veggies, 1/4 cup beans, and tomato sauce
• 3 oz grilled pork chop, veggies (try eggplant, zucchini, or carrots) grilled with 2 tsp olive oil, and brown rice
• Chicken breast (marinated to your liking), brown rice, and veggies (such as peppers or brussels sprouts) sautéed in a teaspoon or two of olive oil