Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on September 11, 2020
You’re hungry and staring into your fridge, but is there anything healthy in there? Stock up on a few key staples to make sure there’s something good waiting for you.
It’s low in fat and sodium, and high in protein. And versatile, too: Wrap some turkey breast in a whole-wheat tortilla for a snack or take it to work for lunch.
Make some yourself -- it’s a healthy, easy way to put some zip into egg dishes, soups, and sauces. Use it instead of oily dressings on vegetables and heartier salads, too. But be forewarned: Health benefits decline, in a big way, if you eat it with a giant bag of heavily salted, processed, deep-fried corn chips.
This Middle Eastern dip -- traditionally made with chickpeas, garlic, and olive oil -- is low in fat and calories and high in protein and fiber. Chickpeas are legumes, which can be good for people with high blood pressure and diabetes. They also can lower your cholesterol and may help protect you against cancer. And skip the pita chips. Try some with veggies like sliced cucumbers, carrots, or cherry tomatoes.
They have amino acids your body needs to make your cells work, and they’re loaded with nutrients like vitamin D, which isn’t in many foods. At just a few cents per egg, they’re an amazing deal for such a high-quality protein.
It’s is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, with only 33 calories per 2.5-ounce serving. Sautee it with chopped onion in olive oil for an easy and quick side dish for chicken and beef.
Sugary drinks add calories to your diet, often without much nutritional value. Seltzer is a great replacement. It’s fizzy, usually comes mildly flavored, and has just a few calories -- a great way to get a soft drink fix without the calories that normally go with it.
100% Fruit Juice
Freshly squeezed juice can be a good source of certain vitamins and minerals, but because it’s almost always high in sugar, you should drink it in moderation. One way to stretch it out is to add it to your seltzer for a kind of low-calorie “soft drink” with some nutritional value.
It’s loaded with calcium, high-quality protein, and probiotics -- bacteria that are good for your gut and may be linked to healthier cholesterol levels. People who eat yogurt are less likely to be obese or have heart disease, and full-fat yogurt is better for that than low-fat. Eat it with fruit or granola, or use it instead of sour cream to lighten up desserts and stews.
Loaded with fiber, vitamin A, potassium and calcium, it’s perfect for stocks or salads or as a seasoning agent when you cook beef or chicken. It’s also a great finger food: You can snack on it by itself, spread peanut butter on it, or dip it in hummus.
They’re low in calories and fat and can be ready in seconds. Sautee whatever vegetables you have in your fridge with some onion and throw in a can of beans. It doesn’t sound like much, but put it all on a freshly heated tortilla with a bit of salsa, shredded cheese, and cilantro, and you’ve got a feast for the senses that’s healthy to boot.
The humble cabbage can be more useful than you might think. It comes packed with fiber, as well as potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C. It’s great for coleslaw and other salads, or steamed as a side dish. Cabbage also works as a kind of wrap in place of bread -- a great way to cut back on calories and add nutrition.
It’s simple and quick and can be used as a side dish or main course. It also has a low glycemic index, which means that it lets sugar into your bloodstream more slowly than other foods, curbing your hunger as well as the blood sugar spikes that can be bad for your health if you have diabetes.
Yes, it’s full of fat, but it’s the “good” fat -- the kind that is linked to good heart health and good cholesterol levels. Plus, it is delicious with eggs or spread on a thin piece of whole grain toast with nothing but salt and pepper.
They’re low in calories and high in nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber -- and that makes them good for heart and brain health, and they may help protect against certain cancers as well. Plus, they’re delicious. Use them in a salad or eat them with some yogurt and granola for dessert.
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American Institute for Cancer Research: “Dry Beans and Peas (Legumes).”
NutritionFacts.org: “Hummus for a Healthy Heart.”
USDA Nutrient Database
Harvard Health Publications “Why is peanut butter ‘healthy’ if it has saturated fat?” “Are fresh juice drinks as healthy as they seem?”
Bon Appetit: “Classic Caesar Salad.”
Nutrition Stripped: “Massaged Kale Salad.”
NIH: “Bioactive Compounds and Antioxidant Activity in Different Types of Berries,” “The satiating effects of eggs or cottage cheese are similar in healthy subjects despite differences in postprandial kinetics,” “Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects,” “Piloting ‘sodabriety’ -- a school-based intervention to impact sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in rural Appalachian high schools,” “Egg breakfast enhances weight loss.”
SFGate: “What Are the Health Benefits of Fresh Tomato Salsa?”
LiveScience: “The Dish on Pasta: Maligned Food Actually a Healthy Carb,” “Eggs: Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts,” “Hummus: Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits.”
BodyNutrition: “9 reasons to throw some kale in your next salad.”