As a Registered Dietitian at a major NYC hospital, I tell all my patients that optimal nutrition is about being an informed eater, an empowered eater. Being a healthier version of yourself isn’t about giving up all your favorite foods, or fasting, or sticking to a severely restricted diet plan. It’s about making small changes that collectively make real and lasting impact on health. That being said, there are some foods that I simply won’t touch, and other foods that I can’t get enough of!
My five favorite foods:
1. Turmeric is a trendy nutrition supplement but with good reason: it is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory. It’s really bright yellow, but the flavor is more mild and earthy. I cook it with olive oil and black pepper to enhance its activity, as these three ingredients together have good synergy. I like to use it in everything from scrambled eggs to lentil salad.
2. Chilies and hot peppers are one of my favorite foods and I find myself craving the piquant sense and flavor in my food. The capsaicin in peppers is a stimulant and can increase blood flow and metabolism by stimulating digestion. I recently found a Chinese hot pepper oil, Fuyun Xianglawang that has added broad bean for an earthy quality.
3. Beans, lentils and other legumes are always in my kitchen. Aside from being protein powerhouses and providing vitamins and minerals, they have special resistant fibers that are fermented in the colon. Sounds gross, but it sustains the beneficial bacteria, or microbiome, that boosts immunity and overall organ function.
4. Mushrooms of course! They are often overlooked or people dislike the texture but I’m convinced it’s just because they haven’t had good mushrooms. I use them in literally everything as they add an earthy and savory depth of flavor that you can’t get from anything else.
5. Matcha is powdered green tea and a powerful anti-inflammatory and metabolism booster. The first time I ever had it was in ice cream and it was love at first bite. It’s also used in baked goods, but I love it unadulterated as a tea or latte beverage made with unsweetened, natural almond milk. Matcha is particularly healthy because instead of brewing the leaf as with most other teas, you dissolve the whole leaf powder for even more potent catechins.
Four foods you won’t catch me eating:
1. Diet ice cream is a sham. Natural ice cream should have just 3 or 4 ingredients (cream, sugar, egg yolk, fruit). The diet varieties that advertise as being healthy are strange analogs of food filled with corn syrup, fillers, emulsifiers and other “ingredients” that are hardly natural food items. Instead I stick with Greek yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit for dessert, and when I’m planning to indulge, go for a small portion of the real stuff.
2. Fruit juice and smoothies! Surprised? These are often incorporated into diet and detox plans but it’s too easy to pack in a ton of fruit at once. You would never sit down and eat as much fruit as you can juice, and even their natural sugars and carbohydrates add up (and add to your waistline). Not to mention that many commercial varieties also pack in added sugars from seemingly healthy sources like brown rice. No thanks!
3. Nutrition bars often have criminal amounts of carbohydrates and sugars with difficult to absorb vitamins and minerals, and other fillers. Instead I’ll make my own nuts/dried fruit mix and keep it in my bag for when I’m in a pinch.
4. Sugar substitutes are pervasive in our food supply. When people try to limit or avoid high amounts of added sugars like high fructose corn syrup, table sugar, evaporated cane juice, etc, it’s no surprise that the use of sugar substitutes rises. These pastel colored sweet nothings may not be nothing after all. There’s some evidence that sugar substitutes can increase cravings and calories, cause headaches, dizziness, preterm delivery and insulin resistance. Choose unsweetened beverages like tea or seltzer instead.
The more we understand how to apply nutrition strategies to food, the more relaxed and in control we become. It’s when we take charge of our forks that we become confident, calm and mindful. Bumps are inevitable but they are tamable when we’re adequately equipped with tools to handle them healthfully. I hope this helps you to make informed decisions about what you put in your body!
Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.