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5. Low-Fat Dairy Foods

I'll leave it to you which low-fat dairy items you want on your refrigerator shelf. I'm a yogurt fan myself, but you'll never see me willingly eat cottage cheese (I can't get past the lumpy texture). Other low-fat dairy options are fat-free or 1% milk and reduced-fat cheeses like part-skim mozzarella or reduced-fat cheddar or provolone.

Low-fat dairy products have impressive levels of two nutrients many of us need: calcium and protein. Just a cup of fat-free yogurt, for example, takes you a third of the way to your daily recommended calcium intake, and satisfies 17% of your estimated daily protein needs. A bag of pre-shredded, reduced-fat cheese also comes in handy for making many of the healthy snacks and meals mentioned in this list.

6. Jar of Marinara or Pizza Sauce

Armed with a jar of marinara or pizza sauce, you're on your way to several quick and healthy snacks or meals. Use it for:

  • Design-your-own pizza using whole-wheat pitas, bagel halves, or tortillas.
  • All kinds of pasta dishes.
  • Italian-style hot sandwiches or panini.
  • Topping for meat loaf or casseroles.
  • Bread dip or enchilada sauce.

Tomatoes are packed with important nutrients, and your body can absorb more of their phytochemicals if the tomatoes are cooked and eaten along with a little healthy fat. That fits the description of most bottled marinara and pizza sauces. Tomatoes contain all four carotenoid phytochemicals: alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene, which work together for even more nutritional pop. They also have three high-powered antioxidants thought to work together: vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene.

7. Prepared Pesto (Made With Olive Oil)

Pesto, made with basil, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and some type of nut, is a tasty way to work a little olive oil into your day. Along with the healthful monounsaturated fats, olive oil contributes more than 30 phytochemicals, many of which have antioxidant/anti-inflammatory action in the body.

Pesto makes a great spread for sandwiches and pizzas, or a tasty sauce for all your favorite hot or cold potato and pasta dishes (choose whole-grain pasta for added nutritional punch). You can even add pesto to goat cheese or light cream cheese and serve with whole-grain crackers for an impromptu appetizer. More good news about pesto: it's strongly flavored, so a small amount can help perk up your dishes while keeping calories under control.

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