Ask food or nutrition professionals what their favorite food is, and chances are you’ll get a wide variety of responses. Some experts love particular foods for their flavor profile, while others are drawn to certain foods for their versatility in the kitchen or nutrient impact on health. I asked a few dietitian friends and colleagues what their go-to health food is and the responses were wide and varied. Here are a few under-the-radar food finds that dietitians in the know are recommending right now.
Can’t Fail With Good Fats
One of the keys to smart eating is choosing foods that help you stay full. Refined carbohydrates and high-sugar foods may fill you up fast, but they leave you feeling flat soon after that. Good fats are the antidotes to hunger pangs, and avocados contain the unsaturated fats that are a heart-smart way to help keep you full.
Dr. Anne VanBeber, PhD, RD, is a professor and the department chair of nutritional sciences at Texas Christian University. Her go-to snack is half of an avocado sprinkled with a little kosher or sea salt. “I just eat it with a spoon,” VanBeber says. “I know I’m getting some good fat, some good fiber, and it will help fill me up. Avocados help with cravings and keep me from eating sugary foods.”
Pack it In With Powdered Peanut Butter
Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, of ShawSimpleSwaps.com, says that powdered peanut butter is hands-down, one of her favorite foods. “Because it’s essentially powdered peanuts with the oil removed, there’s 85 percent less fat and calories than you find in traditional peanut butter, which makes powdered peanut butter a great swap for an everyday routine.”
Shaw explains that, although she loves the real deal as well, she sometimes finds it hard to stick to a two-tablespoon serving of peanut butter, and those calories can easily rack up. She adds powdered peanut butter as a flavor enhancer and protein pump in her yogurt and smoothies, and also spreads it on toast topped with banana slices for an awesome on-the-go snack.
Caught Red Handed With Cruciferous Veggies
The cruciferous vegetable family members are particularly potent when it comes to nutrition benefits. These vegetables contain fiber and vitamin C and include crunchy favorites like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy and broccoli. Integrative dietitian and nutrition coach EA Stewart, aka the Spicy RD, is totally taken with one cruciferous vegetable in particular: red cabbage, which she calls, “One of the most underrated super foods out there.”
Stewart loves red cabbage not only for its crunchy contributions to the gluten-free recipes she creates, but also admires its potential cancer-fighting health benefits. It’s also a cost-effective and inexpensive ingredient to have on hand. Stewart recently deepened her relationship with red cabbage by creating this delectable Fennel, Apple and Red Cabbage Slaw with Creamy Maple Tarragon Dressing recipe.
The Ever-lovable Egg
Dietitians don’t always get super fancy with their favorite food finds. In fact, Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, sports dietitian and blogger at Family. Food. Fiesta., says that eggs are her favorite secret weapon. “It may sound simple, but I’m a huge fan of eggs because they provide high-quality proteins, choline and vitamins D, B2 and B12. To top it off, eggs are so versatile for cooking and relatively inexpensive.” Choline, she points out, “is a nutrient important for maintaining a healthy metabolism.”
To get her daily egg fix, Koszyk uses hard-boiled eggs in salads and sandwiches and also adds them to soups. And to start her day, nothing beats avocado toast topped with a soft-boiled egg for breakfast.
Fermented Food Fans Unite
Fermented foods are definitely having their day in the sun. Food and nutrition blogger and dietitian Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, says that one of the secret foods she consumes to stay healthy is kombucha, a lightly fermented tea that’s a little fizzy, a bit vinegary in flavor, and good for gut health.
Weiss highlights the good bacteria benefit of fermented foods like kombucha, explaining, “The reason I drink kombucha is because our bodies are more bacterial than they are human, so it’s important to consume fermented foods as well as fiber-rich foods, which those good bugs love to eat.” She recently hosted an episode all about fermented foods on her podcast Liz’s Healthy Table, which you can catch over at LizsHealthyTable.com.
Savory Porridge in the Pot
University of California, Berkeley nutrition lecturer and dietitian and food blogger Kristen Rasmussen de Vasquez, MS, RD, found her stealth health food—savory porridge—on a trip to Copenhagen where hygge, or “beyond cozy,” is the status quo. She loves the versatility of porridge: “If you have grain, liquid and leftover vegetables, you have a savory porridge.”
You can add an egg or other protein and some flavoring agents to dress it up, but basically with savory porridge, “You have a delicious, healthy, and cost- and environmentally-friendly porridge party on your hands.” Rasmussen de Vaxquez’s penchant for porridge and New Nordic cuisine is so strong that she recently began hosting “Porridge Pop Ups” in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can read more about the power of porridge over at her blog Rooted Food.
…or Maybe Skip the Secret Foods Altogether?
When asked about her secret food for staying healthy, intuitive eating and eating disorder dietitian Lindsay Stenovec, MS, RD, shared, “My secret is I don’t have any secret foods! I enjoy a wide range of foods with varying nutritional value, sans guilt.” A great reminder from a mindful-eating expert that all foods can provide value, and there’s no such thing as a “perfect” food or a “bad” food.
(But…when pressed to share one of her all-time favorite foods – regardless of its impact – Stenovec, who is also founder of The Nurtured Mama Club said she’s a fan of potatoes. “I was recently turned on to stuffed hasselback potato recipes and I love filling them up with different creative combos of veggies, artisan cheeses and meats!” )