Calories aren’t the only component to look at when searching for healthy foods.

By Lauren Wicks
February 11, 2019

It’s no secret we aren’t the biggest fans of counting calories for weight loss, as there are many foods out there that are high in calories but boast wonderful nutritional profiles. Calories are not all created equal, and you should also pay attention to fiber, protein, and micronutrients when following a nutritious diet.

Consuming these healthy foods, along with lower-calorie options such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, is the best way to find balance in your diet and get all the nutrients you need for optimal health. Just remember, there is such thing as too much of a good food, and these should all be eaten in moderation.

Dark Chocolate

Jennifer Causey

Dark chocolate offers a wide range of benefits besides taste—it’s been shown to improve heart health, prevent chronic disease , and even reduce stress. While just one ounce of dark chocolate ranges between 150-170 calories, it is a good source of iron, magnesium, fiber, copper, and manganese. Look for dark chocolate that’s low in sugar and made with 70 percent or more cacao. An important thing to note, however, is the higher the cacao count, the higher the caffeine content, so you might want to consume your chocolate earlier in the day.

View Recipe: Spicy Dark Chocolate and Tahini Bark

Dates

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Dates are higher in calories and carbohydrates than many other fruit options, but they can still be part of a balanced diet. Dates serve as an excellent natural sweetener in smoothies and desserts, and also tout some major health benefits. These little fruits have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cancer prevention properties. Plus, they’re a great source of fiber, magnesium, and B vitamins to keep you energized and help power you through a workout.

View Recipe: Quinoa Salad With Asparagus, Dates, and Oranges

Avocado

Jennifer Causey

Even though just half of an avocado packs over 100 calories, health authorities still have good reason for promoting the fruit as a daily staple. Avocados have plenty of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which help keep you full, regulate hormones, and stabilize blood sugar. Avocados also boast 20 essential nutrients and well as cholesterol-reducing plant sterols to further protect your heart health. Just be mindful of portions—current research advises consuming just one-third of an avocado each day.

View Recipe: Tabbouleh With Avocado

Interested in learning more about healthy fats?

Olive Oil

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Olive oil is another high-fat food full of health benefits. Like avocado, olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, which have shown to improve brain health and protect from Alzheimer’s disease. The oil has has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, and is an important component of the Mediterranean Diet (which was voted the best diet of 2019.) Make sure to choose a high-quality option, and opt for another healthy oil when cooking with high heat. Try to keep consumption between a tablespoon or two per day.

View Recipe: Basil-Ricotta Ravioli With Spinach

Nuts and Nut Butters

Photo: Romulo Yanes

Peanut butter isn’t the only nutty spread in the game anymore; almond, cashew, and hazelnut butters have all increased in popularity over the last few years. While it’s easy to overdo it, a small handful of nuts or a tablespoon of nut butter packs fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and plenty of hard-to-get micronutrients, like potassium and Vitamin E. Making nuts a daily snack, or throwing a handful into a salad or stir-fry, has shown to promote satiety and even reduce belly fat.

View Recipe: Nutty Fried Rice

Chia Seeds

Photo: Teresa Sabga

Chia seeds have gained “superfood” status in the past few years, and for good reason. These little seeds are power-packed with protein, healthy fats, fiber, and an array of micronutrients—and you just need an ounce a day to start reaping major health benefits. Chia seeds have digestive, weight loss, and heart health benefits to promote overall wellness. Toss a tablespoon in your morning smoothie to fill you up and give your body the nutrients it craves.

View Recipe: Cherry Chia Pudding

Bananas

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Bananas often get a bad rap for being higher in calories and sugar than many other fruits, but they make an excellent part of a balanced diet. They are often touted as a great post-workout snack for their potassium, carbohydrate, and fiber content (plus, they’re super convenient to throw in your gym bag!) While we don’t advise consuming all of your daily fruit servings from bananas, they make a great snack or addition to a filling breakfast.

View Recipe: Chocolate-Tahini Banana Bread

Full-Fat Yogurt

Greg DuPree

As the era of low-fat diets are finally coming to an end, full-fat dairy products are seeing a rightful resurgence in popularity. Besides tasting better than low or fat-free dairy options, full-fat yogurts are typically less processed and keep you fuller, longer. Consuming full-fat dairy has even shown to prevent diabetes and obesity, contrary to popular belief. Make sure to consume low-sugar options, and to keep your intake between one and three servings per day. Full-fat Greek yogurt is a great choice, as it’s loaded with extra protein.

View Recipe: Lentil Cakes With Mint Yogurt

 

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