“Bad” Foods That Are Really Good For You

As a soon-to-be nutrition professional, it blows my mind sometimes how backwards people’s minds are when it comes to food and what they consider “healthy” and “unhealthy”. Some individuals forgo all bread and potatoes because they think they will magically make them fat, yet have no problem consuming 12 oz. steaks on a regular basis. Many patients I’ve seen with diabetes, avoid fruit like the devil because it contains sugar, yet in their food recall note that they eat packages of candy and cookies each day.

How did our perceptions of health become so distorted?? Well, the low-fat trend happened, followed by the low-carb, no-sugar one, both of which brainwashed people into thinking specific macronutrients aren’t healthy. The truth is, no specific food directly causes weight-gain. The human body needs an adequate amount of carbohydrates, fat and protein in order to properly function. In addition, it is much better to get these essential nutrients from real food such as fruit, compared to processed sources such as Twizzlers. So please, stop thinking the following foods are “bad” for you and go back to enjoying them!

Bananas
I am starting with this one because this is the one that annoys me the most. Like, to the point where I literally cringe when people bashfully say “I do eat bananas…I know their bad for me”. No, no, NO they are not! Our society has been convinced into thinking fruits, particularly bananas, are unhealthy because they contain sugar. Yes, they do, but it is a natural form called fructose, which our bodies use efficiently for energy. Bananas are high in potassium, which promotes optimal nerve and muscle function and are a good source of manganese, an important mineral for healthy bones. One small banana contains only 100 calories, 3 grams of filling fiber and is fat and cholesterol free (like most fruits).

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Potatoes
America’s favorite vegetable, the classic potato, often gets a bad rap because it is high(er) in carbohydrates. While this is true, again, remember that our bodies need carbs to function. Like bananas, potatoes are a great natural source of energy and contain a lot of vitamins and minerals including the aforementioned potassium as well as 50% of the RDA for vitamin C, which supports a healthy immune system. Now, this does not mean French fries are healthy and ok to consume on a regular basis, although once and awhile they are totally fine. Choose potato dishes that aren’t deep-fried and keep high-fat toppings to a minimum. One medium baked potato with the skin contains 130 calories, 0 grams of fat and nearly 3 grams of fiber.

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Eggs
Eggs are demonized because their yolk contains a relatively large amount of cholesterol, which was once thought to promote heart disease. However, the most recent 2015 Dietary Guidelines removed it’s previous recommendation for a

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Bread
Nowadays, if you eat a sandwich the way they were meant to be (AKA with two slices of bread), that’s considered overdoing it. Umm, I don’t know about the rest of you but the whole wrapping my meat in lettuce just doesn’t do it for me. Nor does the popular “open-faced” trend. Give me ALL THE BREAD! Like everything else, moderation is key and choosing a whole-wheat option ups the nutritional value. Look for brands that list “whole-wheat” or “whole-grain” flour as their first ingredient. Also beware of the size of the pieces. Many varieties today are sliced into larger pieces than they used to, therefore easily packing on more calories than needed if you’re using two slices. As a good rule of thumb, look for breads that are 100 calories or less per slice and contain 3 or more grams of fiber.

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Nuts
Nuts are high in fat, and fat is bad, so nuts are bad. Right? Wrong! The popular notion that eating fat causes weight-gain is not true. Eating too much fat can make you gain weight, but so can eating too much of anything else, including carbs and protein. Similarly, not all fats are created equal. Nuts are high in poly- and monounsaturated fats, which are good for you. They help keep your skin, hair and nails healthy and your heart strong. Recent research shows participants who consumed nuts on a regular basis actually lost more weight than those who did not eat any. Nuts are high in fat and fiber, both of which slow digestion and induce a longer period of satiety, which could help explain this phenomenon.

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Homemade Meatballs

A classic Italian dish coming at you today featuring lean, mean homemade meatballs. Traditional recipes often call for high-fat ingredients such as 85% ground beef, sausage and excessive amounts of cheese. My version is lightened-up because I use lean ground beef, a small amount of cheese and herbs to heighten the flavor. I also sneak in vegetables which not only increase the nutritional value of the dish, but also keep the meatballs moist and prevents them from drying out.

Homemade meatballs may seem like a daunting, complicated dish to make, but these are anything but that. Simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl mix, roll into balls, cook and serve. Simple as that. This recipe is also freezer friendly. I oftentimes freeze half the batch to use at a later date when I don’t have time to cook a full meal or need something quick. If you do freeze them, freeze them in their raw form then thaw and cook them when you’re ready to eat them.

Homemade Meatballs

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 lb. lean ground beef (I recommend 92-95%)

2 pieces of bread, toasted

¼ C grated Parmesan cheese

½ C carrots, grated

½ onions, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ Tbs. Italian seasoning (or 1/2 tsp. each dried basil, thyme and oregano)

1 egg, beaten

½ tsp. salt

Ground black pepper

1 Tbs. Olive oil

Directions:

Add toasted bread to a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs are formed. Combine bread crumbs and all ingredients in a medium-large bowl and mix well to incorporate. Form into evenly-sized balls and set aside.

Heat a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Coat with olive oil and then add meatballs. Cook, flipping occasionally until cooked through (about 6-10 minutes). Place on a paper-towel lined plate to drain excess oil. Serve on top of spaghetti and topped with a healthy dose of Parmesan cheese.

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