Making a trip to the grocery store can feel overwhelming: What foods should I stock up on? How many fruits and veggies should I stock up on? What about protein and snacks? Although you may generally know what foods are healthy, it’s hard to determine just what you should be eating every single day. Luckily, we’ve consulted registered dietitians and nutritionists who reveal what foods they swear by. So be sure to add these foods nutritionists eat to your grocery list and navigate the supermarket with ease.
Even nutritionists are avo-crazy: “I am a huge fan of these fruits! They’re packed with Vitamin C to help boost your immune system and healthy fats which are an essential part of your diet,” says New York City-based dietitian Aislinn Crovak, RD, CDN. “They are a great addition to most foods, as a spread on sandwiches, or even plain with some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. My go-to morning breakfast is two sunny side up eggs with a side of creamy avocado, delicious and nutritious!” And here’s a pleasant surprise: “Avocados also offer up to 40 percent of your daily recommended fiber intake!” exclaims Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition.
It’s a good thing you already got that kettle going. “Tea is a good source of polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. That’s why tea is believed to promote cardiovascular health and support healthy vision, teeth, bones, memory, and cognition,” says Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN, Corporate Dietitian at Medifast, Inc. “If left unsweetened, tea is also naturally low in calories and free of sodium and sugar.” That’s why we included it in our new weight-loss book, The 17-Day Green Tea Diet. And don’t just drink it: “Try cooking with tea or using it as the liquid for a smoothie,” suggests nutritionist Kayleen St. John, RD at Natural Gourmet Institute, a health-supportive cooking school in New York City. Swapping out water for tea is an easy way to increase the antioxidant content of your dishes and lose weight fast—which is precisely why ETNT created The 17-Day Green Tea Diet!
“One of the best known digestive aids, ginger contains the active compound gingerol, which has been shown to help indigestion, nausea, and vomiting,” says Dr. Taz. “This same compound also has anti-inflammatory properties, assisting in relief of joint pain and inflammation.” Ginger tea to beat bloat? We’ll get the kettle going…
Not just for martinis! “Olives are a rich source of vitamins A and E, both of which protect the oils on the surface of your skin from free radical damage,” praises Peggy Kotsopoulos, RHN of the tantalizing treat, nutritionist, and author of Kitchen Cures. “Olives also help strengthen connective tissues, improving skin tone and protecting against UV radiation. The rich monounsaturated fat content is particularly helpful to the heart since it reduces the risk for atherosclerosis [a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries] while raising good HDL cholesterol.” Olives also pack flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory properties and help reduce your risk for heart disease. And green or black, Kalamata or pimento-stuffed, they’re just pretty darn tasty if you ask us.
“If you can’t get enough of this winter favorite, you’re in luck,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Partner American Macular Degeneration Foundation. “Besides being delicious, Brussels sprouts are a rich source of the antioxidant vitamin A, important for eye growth and development, and the antioxidant vitamin C. They also contain the plant chemicals lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that could help reduce the risk of developing eye diseases such as macular degeneration.” Did we mention that just a cup of the small but mighty veggie offers 100 percent DV of vitamin C and 100 percent DV of Vitamin K, which helps your blood clot and is necessary for building strong bones.
“Flaxseeds are the richest source of lignins, polyphenols that have weak estrogenic effects which may have significant health benefits,” says Hever.” Research suggests that lignins may reduce the risk of breast cancer, control blood sugar, and lower blood pressure. Additionally, flaxseeds are excellent sources of essential omega-3 fats, which are crucial for controlling inflammation and heart health.” And let’s just get to the icky stuff: “Flaxseeds offer both soluble and insoluble fibers that are excellent for gastrointestinal health, which is why it can reduce your risk of constipation.”
Creamy, savory sauce twirling with your pasta or smothered on a slice of toast? Pretty obsession-worthy if you ask us. “Pestos are a delicious blend of phytonutrient-packed green herbs, olive oil, a bit of high-flavor cheese, and in this case, walnuts for their distinct taste and omega-3s,” explains Annie Kay, MS, RDN, Lead Nutritionist at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. “Herbs also have some of the highest ORAC scores (a measure of antioxidant levels) of any food.”
“Plant proteins are key to health and even people who have difficulty tolerating nuts can often eat seeds without a reaction,” explains Kay. “In addition to protein, hemp seeds are rich in fiber (fiber is a plant phenomenon – there is none in animal foods), and filled with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats.” And vegetarians, rejoice: “Nutty and chewy, hemp seeds are considered a complete protein providing 5 grams of protein in a two-tablespoon serving Hemp seeds’ fatty acids promote heart health, reduce inflammation, and promote brain health. They can be easily baked into muffins and cookies, mixed into oatmeal, or sprinkled on top of a pasta dish for extra crunch,” adds Janel Ovrut Funk MS, RD, LDN.
Apple Cider Vinegar
“One of the most important things I stock in my kitchen is apple cider vinegar,” shares Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, MD, also known as Dr. Taz, a weight loss expert and author of What Doctors Eat and The 21-Day Belly Fix. We’re starting to think we should do the same: “Apple cider vinegar aids in preserving a healthy alkaline pH level which helps prevent fatigue, inflammation, weight problems, acne, and heartburn.”
Don’t be surprised if this is the next juicing rage. But there’s good reason nutritionists think you should swoon for it just as much as they do. Want a perfect complexion? Get sipping. “Watermelon is one of the best ways to stay hydrated. Made up of mostly water, and rich in electrolytes, particularly potassium, which is essential for hydration on the cellular level. It keeps your skin flawless and fresh looking from the inside out,” says Kotsopoulos. Watermelon water also contains the rind, which is rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that firms up skin and helps to slow the aging process. And it also contains L-Citrulline, which acts as a vasodilator helping to deliver oxygen to all the cells in your body, and is also great for glowing skin. Plus, it’s rich in antioxidant Lycopene (way more than tomatoes), which helps build our skin-firming collagen and prevents against UV damage.”
Superfood-crusted turnip fries, anyone? Grab some amaranth and get ready for your taste buds and waistline to be delighted. “Like quinoa, amaranth is not actually a grain, but the seed of an amaranth plant. It is high in protein, and surprisingly calcium, too,” says Hayim. “Amaranth is usually cooked in water, like rice, or can be consumed raw. Amaranth is also naturally gluten-free, and has been shown in studies to lower incidences of chronic disease such as heart disease and stroke.”
“Although chia seeds are tiny, they pack the most omega-3 fatty acids —which are proven to reduce risk factors for heart disease—and fiber compared to any other food by weight,” comments Lisa Hayim, registered dietician and founder of The WellNecessities. Stir them into yogurt, add them to a salad vinaigrette, or try them in one of these 50 best chia seed recipes for weight loss. “They’re also an easy alternative to carbs,” adds Rebecca Lewis, RD for HelloFresh. [In addition to all their nutrients], not to mention they are also an excellent source of vegetarian-based protein.”
“Quinoa is a great source of protein, fiber, and magnesium. It is a versatile plant-based protein that can be substituted as rice in many recipes and included in baked goods as well. It can be added to almost anything for an extra protein-packed snack,” says Crovak. Have a sweet tooth? This nutritionist says, “It’s especially delicious in chocolate, adding some extra crunch in every bite.” Bonus: Not only is it higher in protein than most grains, but it is also a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids.
“Although a starchy food, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene which is essential for healthy skin and eyes,” says Crovak. “They are a great source of fiber as well and can be added to casseroles, roasted or steamed as a side dish, or even as a french fry substitute. I even love them baked and sprinkled with cinnamon and a touch of butter for a sweet treat.”
“Swiss chard is one of the healthiest leafy greens around,” says Kotsopoulos. “It helps to boost cardiovascular strength and keeps bones healthy. Plus, it has an abundant source of Vitamin K.” Vitamin K is one of the most important bone-building vitamins, helping to shuttle calcium to your bones, and helping your bones absorb the calcium once it gets there. One cup contains 374 percent of your DV.
“Goji berries are rich in plant-based antioxidants, our body’s best defense against disease-causing free radicals,” says Hayim. Studies show that they may even play a role in supporting weight loss. In a recent experiment, overweight adults were put into two groups: One that consumed goji berry juice, and one that received a placebo. The results of the study showed that in just two weeks, the group that consumed the goji berry juice had a decrease in waist circumference compared to the group that received the placebo.” Hayim suggests you add them to your salads, oatmeal, or eat a handful plain for a deliciously tangy boost of natural energy.
“Kale is packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, a substance found in plants that is believed to be beneficial to human health and prevention of various diseases,” says Hayim. “The phytonutrients promote optimal cell function and communication, ensuring that enzymatic reactions occur when they are supposed to within the body, and lays down the foundation for a strong immune system to fight illness.”
“Jackfruit is the wellness world’s next big thing,” claims Hayim. “Vegan restaurants caught on early, with the creation of jackfruit tacos, using the meaty consistency of the jackfruit as the filler. The fruit is deliciously sweet, rich in vitamin and minerals, and contains no saturated fat or cholesterol. While most B vitamins are found in non-plant sources, jackfruit is rich in vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid, which all play an important role in helping the body in converting food to energy.” Okay, we’re sold!
But wild salmon gets a serious head nod: “Salmon contains a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids as well as a unique combination of antioxidants including DMAE and astaxanthin (which makes it pink),” says Dr. Taz. “All of these constituents control inflammation and contribute to a hydrated and youthful appearance.”
Nut-Based Cream Cheese
Get ready to spread on the non-dairy love with these tantalizing spreads from Kite Hill. “For those of you who have jumped off the dairy ship long ago, you know it’s nearly impossible to find a cream cheese substitute that isn’t loaded with soy, additives, or partially hydrogenated fats,” says Hayim. And even if you’re new to eating dairy-free, or still enjoy dairy, you won’t be disappointed. “With its creamy texture and all-natural ingredients, this delicious almond based cream cheese is taking over the non-dairy cream cheese world. Try original, or spice it up with chive flavor on a bagel, or even smeared on a raw Portobello mushroom.”
“When it comes to nutrient density (nutrients per calorie) the mighty dandelion is tops,” says Kay. “Rich in protective antioxidant vitamins A and C, dandelions are a gentle cleansing folk tonic for the liver and gall bladder.” You can eat tender leaves from areas free of chemical spray or look for them at your local farmer’s market or health store.
Banza Chickpea Pasta
This gluten-free pasta alternative (made out of chickpeas!) doesn’t have any refined flour and is lower in carbohydrates. “Unlike regular pasta, Banza is made out of beans,” shares Hayim. “This makes you feel fuller faster and helps to avoid overeating and weight gain. Banza is made from garbanzo beans and pea protein, making it naturally gluten-free and high in protein. This pasta keeps you full longer, and tastes just as delicious, if not more, than that traditional stuff.” Most of the ETNT editors have taste-tested it, too. And yeah, it’s definitely worthy of obsession!
It’s one of our favorite superfoods for a reason! It’s also super versatile: Have a tablespoon or so plain before a workout, or slip some into your favorite shake. “One tablespoon contains 122 calories and 13.6 grams of fat (12 grams of which are from saturated fat.) Because it’s so high in saturated fat, coconut oil’s health benefits are often called into question,” explains Dr. Taz. She elaborates: “But it actually elevates HDL levels (the good cholesterol) and reduces heart disease. It also contains lauric acid, which has antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral properties. I like to spread it on rice cakes for a quick and healthy snack.”
Hey, just because you poked at it on your plate back in the day, doesn’t mean you’re gonna wanna push this cruciferous wunderkind away in your adulthood. “In addition to being loaded with bone-building vitamin K and absorbable calcium, broccoli is an alkalizing food that’s been linked to greater bone density and reduced bone loss in postmenopausal women,” explains Kotsopoulos. “It’s also rich in nerve-calming magnesium, folate for pregnant mamas, and fiber that helps keep you full and aids in weight-loss.” Plus, it contains indole-3-carbinols (I-3-C), which helps eliminate excess estrogen from the body that can cause man boobs, belly fat, and stubborn weight in hips and thighs. So, bite that broccoli if you want to slow down your dad bod or growing backside.
Perhaps the ultimate fall superfood, this tasty veggie is also a boon for eye health. “A vitamin powerhouse, butternut squash contains high amounts of vitamin A, C, and E, all powerful antioxidants that are important for healthy eyes. Roasted and tossed in a hearty salad or used in soups or curries, butternut squash is a versatile ingredient that won’t disappoint,” offers Amidor.
Bring on the cukes! “Cucumber is a delicious and light way to hydrate the body and replenish its daily vitamins. In fact, cucumber holds the most water by weight of any solid food (95 percent water),” offers Hayim. “When we’re not in the mood to drink our fluids, slicing up some cucumbers or adding them to a salad can help with hydration and detoxification.” Cucumbers are also naturally low in calories, making it ideal for weight loss, or just to improve overall digestion.
“Hummus should be a food group,” says Hever. “Literally. With all of its potential in the kitchen, there may not be any other food that provides such a satisfying shot of nutrition. Protein-, micronutrient-, and fiber-jammed chickpeas are typically mixed with tahini, which is loaded with healthy fats and minerals, and then boosted along with vitamin C-rich lemon or other citrus, which synergistically improves the absorption of iron from the chickpeas. It is a winning—and delicious!—combination.” Now, excuse us while we go grab our broccoli and cukes for dipping.
“Blueberries are rich in vitamins and minerals. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, vegetables and fruits (like blueberries), are associated with reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, and may be protective against certain types of cancers,” Sonali Ruder, DO, The Food Physician, says. “Blueberries are a good source of vitamin C and fiber. Vitamin C helps the immune system work properly and is an antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Fiber is a nutrient that most of us don’t get nearly enough of. It serves many important functions, including aiding in digestion, contributing to feelings of satiety or fullness, helping to lower cholesterol, and keeping blood sugar levels in check.”
“Nuts are rich in protein, healthy fats, fiber, and anti-inflammatory polyphenols. Walnuts are especially rich in omega-6 omega-3 essential fatty acids,” Dietitian Nutritionist Anne Guillot, DN, says. “Research has shown that nuts (including almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts) can help promote a healthy weight, good blood pressure levels, better cardiovascular health, and healthier cholesterol levels.”
Why not stir up a salad for lunch instead of noshing on the usual carb-heavy sandwich? “Leafy greens such as kale or spinach are rich in nutrients like folate, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. They are also rich in antioxidants such as lutein, carotenoids, and beta-carotene, which prevent diseases caused by oxidative stress. Lutein is useful for healthy eyes, as it protects against macular degeneration,” Guillot says. “A 2018 study also showed that one serving a day of leafy greens could help slow down cognitive decline.”
“Greek yogurt provides probiotics, protein, and calcium. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that live in your digestive tract. It’s the balance of good and bad bacteria that helps maintain your gut health, immunity, and overall health,” Ruder says. “Greek yogurt is also packed with protein, which helps us maintain muscle mass as we age and also gives us long-lasting energy. It can be an especially good source of protein for vegetarians. Greek yogurt also provides calcium (a mineral that many Americans fall short on), which helps maintains bone health.”
“Beets are a source of phytonutrients called betalains,” Alicia Galvin MEd, RD, LD, CLT, IFNCP, says. “Betanin is one of the best-studied betalains from beets and has been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. The pigments present in beets have been shown to support activity in our body’s Phase 2 detoxification process. Phase 2 is the metabolic step that our cells use to bind unwanted toxic substances up with small nutrient groups. This binding process effectively neutralizes the toxins and makes them sufficiently water-soluble for excretion in the urine. One critical binding process during Phase 2 involves an enzyme family called the glutathione-S-transferase family (GSTs). GSTs hook toxins up with glutathione for neutralization and excretion from the body. The betalains found in beet have been shown to trigger GST activity, and to aid in the elimination of toxins.”
“Garlic, a part of the Allium family, provides us with sulfur-containing compounds, which assist with our cellular detoxification system, the health of our joints and connective tissue, and optimize blood vessel elasticity (which translates to cardiovascular benefits),” Galvin says. “Garlic has been shown to support healthier cholesterol profiles and also offers antioxidants such as manganese, vitamin C, and selenium, which all help reduce inflammation.”
“Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for many types of cardiovascular disease, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) has well-documented anti-inflammatory properties,” Galvin says. “These properties of EVOO are closely linked to its phenols and polyphenols. The cardioprotective, anti-inflammatory benefits can be seen with just one tablespoon per day, but as the number of tablespoons increases, the anti-inflammatory benefits have also been found to increase. Levels of CRP (C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker in lab work) have been shown to decrease with the consumption of olive oil.” Instead of drizzling your salad with bottled dressing, opt for a homemade mix of olive oil and lemon juice to reap these benefits!
“Beans are the unsung hero of the protein world, but they are economical, environmentally friendly, and incredibly healthy. They are high in protein and fiber to help keep you satisfied and promote weight maintenance. Beans have been shown to help reduce your risk of heart disease and promote stable blood sugar levels (both largely in part to the soluble fiber),” Registered Dietitian and yoga teacher Morgan Bettini, MS, RDN, E-RYT, says. Beans are versatile, too: You can toss them into a salad, pair them with your favorite protein as a side dish, and even sneak them into healthy brownies!
“Whole eggs are a great source of choline, an essential nutrient needed for optimal cognitive function, metabolism and transport of lipids, and cardiovascular health,” Kristin Koskinen, RDN, LD, CD, says. “Eggs from pastured hens or those fed an omega-3-rich diet also provide essential fatty acids that are known to be anti-inflammatory and support brain health. Concerns about eating eggs and serum cholesterol have been set aside in recent years.” Koskinen suggests replacing sugary, processed breakfast cereals with this eggs for a more wholesome a.m. meal.
“I keep high fiber cereals (like All-Bran) with me at all times—in my pantry, desk drawer, and sometimes in pre-portioned baggies in my purse. Many fall short on fiber (adults need roughly 25–38 grams each day), yet it’s an important nutrient that promotes gut health, controls blood sugar levels, and keeps you feeling satisfied,” Julie Pappas, RD, says. To help her get more fiber in her diet, Pappas adds high-fiber cereals into Greek yogurt and protein shakes for a more balanced snack or meal.
Nut and Seed Butters
Before you break out the butter tub, look again: Plant-based nut butters and seed butters should be your daily go-to. Whether it’s peanut butter, sunflower butter, cashew butter, or almond butter, these spreads are all great sources of fiber, protein, monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants, Rachel Fine MS, RD, CSSD, CDN, says. “Tip: Almond butter tastes similar to peanut butter, but has twice as much iron, which helps to prevent anemia—a chronic disorder that causes fatigue among women of childbearing age,” Fine says.
“Oatmeal is an excellent source of soluble fiber, which swells when it comes in contact with water (different than the fiber in most fruits and vegetables). Oatmeal happens to be the best source of a particular soluble fiber, beta-glucan, that is proven to aid in lowering blood glucose levels and LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber is necessary on a daily basis in order to keep LDL cholesterol levels low and maintain heart health,” Ashley Reaver, MS, RD, CSSD, says.
“This may sound obvious, but the majority of the patients I see are drinking less than even half of their recommended amounts of water each day,” Marissa Meshulam, RD, says. “Water is vital for every bodily function, so it is imperative we get in the amount we need! While dehydration can cause annoying side effects like fatigue and brain fog, it can also mask itself as hunger. When working with patients on weight loss, I always ensure they are getting enough water in during the day. Being adequately hydrated also fills your stomach, so drinking water with meals is a great way to make sure you do not overeat. I usually start with the goal of two liters per day and eventually increase to 2.5-3 liters per day if that fits with my clients’ goals and lifestyles.”
If drinking plain ol’ H2O is a challenge, Meshulam suggests buying a fun cup for your desk at work. “I find that reusable straws make sipping very easy. [Try bringing] a water bottle to carry with you. If plain water is not your jam, try infusing still or sparkling water with slices of fruit or some chopped herbs (I love combining orange and basil),” Meshulam says.