On occasion, I’ll run into a person who apparently believes that dietitians just run around nibbling dry salads and carrot sticks all day long. For the record – No, I don’t always feel like eating vegetables. Okay, I rarely feel like eating vegetables, especially if chocolate happens to be an available option. Chocolate always trumps broccoli.
Apparently there’s a philosophy out there that says, “If it tastes good, it’s bad for you,” but I beg to differ. I have a Top 10 list of favorite foods. A food’s nutrition profile contributes exactly 0% of its qualification for this list, and personal enjoyment contributes approximately 100%. But sometimes the tasty foods also have some great health benefits. I love finding out that my favorite “vices” are not as vicious to my health. Take a look at a few of my favorites:
1. Popcorn – You may have already heard that whole grains are healthier than refined grains. Guess what? Popcorn is a whole grain! Yep, it’s the entire kernel of corn, aka – the whole grain. Now, once we drench it in butter and salt its nutritional profile starts to wilt, but it started out relatively healthy. I use an air popper to make mine, and then coat it in butter spray or a light coating of butter then lightly sprinkle it with salt. You can also cook it over the stove in oil. I just happen to have a hand-me-down air popper.
2. Grapes – They’re a fruit. This one doesn’t need much of an argument for the sake of its health benefits, but I put this one in to remind you that obviously healthy foods can be deliciously tasty, too. Don’t look at fruits and vegetables strictly for their health benefits. Taste them. Find those that you actually like. You might end up with one on your Top 10 list, too.
3. Nuts – Yes, I’ve already heard the “you-are-what-you-eat” jokes. Nuts are full of protein, heart-healthy unsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium, and other nutrients. Being high in fat, though, they do still pack a lot of calories into a small amount of space, so the key with these gems is to mind portion size.
4. Coffee – I’m the person who programs her coffee maker so that it’s ready in the pot when I roll (sometimes literally) out of bed and shuffle to the kitchen. Coffee’s most obvious health benefit is that it wakes me up so that I don’t fall asleep at the wheel on my way to work. In addition, however, several studies have shown that moderate coffee intake can decrease risk of type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer, stimulate metabolism and increase athletic performance, and increase mental acuity. We just have to watch how much we’re drinking; coffee may be calorie-free, but its caffeine content can increase blood pressure and disrupt sleep.
Now, as you notice, that’s only 4 out of 10. So if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to perusing my research articles. I’m sure I saw something in here about the cardiovascular benefits of French fries . . .