Let me paint you a probably familiar picture. You wake up one day determined that today is the day you are going to start eating healthy. Maybe you clear out the junk from your house, and then go excitedly to the grocery store. Your list of foods includes things you never eat like: chia seeds, kale, edamame, almond milk, protein powder or shakes, veggie chips, fancy juices and teas, every fruit and veggie available because, by golly! You are going to cram it in a smoothie! You get up to the register to pay for your bounty only to find it costs way more than you ever spend on food and does not make as many meals. You either leave completely annoyed and give up, or you leave slightly discouraged but determined to make this work. If you’re the latter, you make it home with your food only to find you don’t like how half of it tastes, you don’t know what to make with all these ingredients, or you love it but just can’t afford to buy that stuff all the time.
If I just described you, please keep reading! If I didn’t just describe you, please keep reading as well! I promise to give you ALL some tips on healthy eating in a practical and affordable way with the help of some dietitians.
Dietitians- we tell you how to eat for your health. We know how important diet is to your overall health, and most of us try to follow healthy diets too. Unfortunately we aren’t made of money, so we know how to eat on a budget too. To help you on your eating healthy journey I asked several dietitians to give me a list of healthy foods they keep on hand all the time. BONUS!! Because this is the not so perfect blog, I also asked my dietitian friends to tell me a few not so healthy things they like to keep in their kitchens for special treats every now and then. Now this isn’t to say we don’t eat those stereotypical health foods, they just aren’t the only things we eat or ALWAYS on our menu.
Here we go!
“Bagged baby spinach ( it’s a quick salad or toss into a dish to get extra veggies), quinoa (it’s a great replacement for pasta or rice in stir fry and a complete source of protein), peanut butter (… I add it to oatmeal, on sandwiches, as fruit dip, pretty much anything.)”
Not so healthy- “macaroni and cheese ( yes the blue box), and frozen pizza, some nights you really just don’t want to cook and having a pizza to throw in the oven is easy and quick. I get the veggie lovers or supreme so that we at least get a few veggies, also pairing it with that bagged spinach as a side salad helps you to get some extra veggies.” – Chrissy Willis, RD/LD
Healthy- “Ready to eat fresh fruit- bananas, apples, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, Ready to eat fresh vegetables- salad greens, baby carrots, bell peppers of various colors, low fat or fat free Greek yogurt, low fat cheese, lean ground beef or chicken breasts in the freezer for quick and easy meals, whole grain breads, light soft tub margarine, and brown rice.”
Not so healthy- ” I usually keep these around for use in moderation: regular butter, hamburger helper or boxed macaroni and cheese, and regular potato chips.” – Jennifer Rogers MS, RD/LD
Healthy- “I always have apples and bananas. I usually eat those with peanut butter. I always have oatmeal packages by great value. I always have eggs and I do have some veggies on hand whether they are fresh or frozen. I cook a lot with onions and peppers but I eat cherry tomatoes like grapes. ”
Not so healthy- “I probably eat a cheeseburger or pizza once a week. One of my coworkers brings donuts every Friday and I cut off a small piece of one. And I feel like I have something chocolate everyday. ” -Chelsea Reed RD/LD
Healthy- “canned black beans, tuna, salmon, vanilla Greek yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, peanut butter, whole grain bread, light popcorn, tortillas.”
Not so healthy- “chips and salsa and Blue Bell ice cream.”- Michelle Goss RD/LD CDE
Healthy-” Greek yogurt, granola, bananas, peanut butter, plain ole dairy [skim] milk, spinach ( salads, sandwiches, smoothies, oh the possibilities!), carrots (it takes so long for them to spoil so they’ll always be there for a snack, side dish, or addition to soup or casserole.) frozen fruit, frozen veggie mixes, hard boiled eggs (pre-peel for protein on the run), Sabra Hummus.”
Not so healthy-“Ice cream and Chocolate Lucky Charms.” She likes to think of these as her husband’s, but admits she likes having them around for a treat. -Allison Feather RDN, LD
Healthy-” Frozen fruit, bananas, boxed oatmeal, almond butter, skim milk, yogurt, frozen veggies.”
Not so healthy-” Coke Zero and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.” – Taylor Williams RD/LD
Healthy-” Greek yogurt, granola, cottage cheese, natural peanut butter, fat free re-fried beans, tortillas, and deli ham or chicken. We always keep fruit, veggies, and nuts for quick grab and go. My husband loves to add frozen fruit to his protein shakes in the morning.”
Not so healthy-“just like everyone else we enjoy food so there are some not so “healthy” foods that we keep too. I love Honey Nut Cherrios and we keep a boxed cake mix or chocolate chip cookies on hand to make a sweet snack every once in a while. ” – Tonya Swim MBA, RD/LD
Healthy-” I never skimp on breakfast… I aim to get a good amount of healthy calories and protein to fuel my day and keep my energy levels high. Oatmeal, almonds, peanut butter, cinnamon, and ALWAYS coffee ( only with steamed milk)”…For smoothies, “frozen fruit, yogurt, light soy milk, kale from my garden.” She likes Cliff and Kashi bars for on the run days. She likes to use vegetables and herbs from her garden to save money in the summer. She even dries some of her herbs to use during the winter months. Tawnie also suggests buying bulk ingredients when they are on sale to make large batch recipes and freezing for later use. Lately she made a healthier version of pasta primavera using broccoli and cauliflower from her garden along with asparagus that she bought in bulk when it was on sale. The other ingredients she had on hand for the dish were olive and canola oil, whole grain pasta, no salt added chicken broth, and dried beans “…a very cheap protein source and are rich in fiber. ”
Not so healthy- “I don’t typically keep unhealthy things in the house because I eat them. Ha! I usually enjoy a treat when I go out to eat. However, this week I chose to purchase Reese’s Puffs and a dark chocolate candy bar. ” – Tawnie Goodwin BS RD
Healthy- “I ALWAYS have natural peanut butter. I also keep some type of fresh fruit that is portable and cheap like Granny Smith apples or bananas. There are always bags of frozen broccoli and frozen chicken breast in the freezer. Also I keep on hand non fat Greek yogurt, skim milk, whole wheat pasta, canned no salt added black beans, plain large containers of oatmeal, whole wheat bread, green bell peppers, quick cooking brown rice, bagged spinach and avocados if I can get a good deal.”
Not so healthy-“Typically there is ice cream in the freezer, or something I have baked. I like to freeze things I bake so that I have to really think about it before I choose to eat it. That keeps me from diving right into it if it has to set out and thaw and time to choose a quicker healthier option like apple with peanut butter. Individually squares of dark chocolate are always around as well as a 6 pack of 20 oz bottles of Sprite. The catch with the Sprite is that it has to stay way up on top of the cabinet. Again I have to choose to get it down and refrigerate it long enough to be cold with dinner if I really want it. My husband and I will split the bottle on a weekend meal usually while we watch a movie. A pack of sprite can last us several months this way. ” – Breanna Dale RD/LD (Not so perfect RD)
So there you have it! Now you can eat healthy (and not so healthy) like a dietitian and still be good on your check book. Two of my favorite words: balance and moderation. When you eat right most of the time, you can have a treat without the guilt.
Do you like what you have read? Tell me what some of your favorite “healthy” staples are!