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5 Foods I Can’t Live Without

By Kim McDevitt, MPH RD on September 27, 2013, categorized in Plant-based Nutrition

5 Foods I Can’t Live Without

A self-proclaimed foodie, I’m the type of person who goes to the grocery store just for the sake of going. I can spend hours roaming the aisles in search of new products, reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists.

Beyond seasonality, flavor, and good packaging, I choose foods based on nutrient density. As a runner, and a generally active individual – living in New York requires plenty of walking – I need to choose foods that are going to give me energy, satiety and nourishment. Basically, foods that are going to get me through the day. That means a good balance of fat, carbohydrates, and protein.

Supplemented with seasonal produce, Vega products, and the occasional treat, the following 5 items are staples in my diet.

1. Nut Butters

Nutrition to note: Because of their high fat content, many try and steer clear from nut butters. It’s important to remember that there is a place for fat in a balanced diet—specifically the “good” fats. In fact, diets that contain the monounsaturated fats,  like those found in nut butter,  has been linked to improved blood cholesterol levels, reduced inflammation in the body and long-term weight maintenance1,2  That being said, watch your portions—2 tablespoons of nut butter are in the neighbourhood of 180 calories, making it  easy to go overboard.

Favorite way to nosh: It’s hard to pick just one! Some of my favorites include adding almond butter to smoothies, making a salad dressing with peanut butter, rice vinegar, honey and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, combining tahini and chickpeas for a quick D.I.Y hummus, and eating Sunbutter straight from the jar. Really, I’ll top just about anything with nut butter!

2. Leafy Greens

Nutrition to note: Clocking in around 30 calories per cup—and providing a high percentage of your recommended daily value of Vitamin A, C, K and folate—greens, including kale, spinach, and arugula, are definitely a food I can’t live without.

Favorite way to nosh: I crave greens on a daily basis and you can usually find me incorporating them into my lunches and dinners.  An equal-opportunity greens eater, I prefer to choose what’s in season and what’s on sale when purchasing the type each week.  For a recent dinner, I blended kale into my falafel mix—a great way to sneak in the veg without the taste for your picky eaters!

3. Blueberries

Nutrition to note: Beyond being high in vitamin C and with few calories per cup, blueberries are believed to have health benefits specifically from their high antioxidant content. Anthocyanin is one antioxidant, responsible for helping to maintain blood glucose levels and blood pressure levels, as well as other cardiovascular benefits3.

Favorite way to nosh: I love this fruit so much I stock up when they’re in season and freeze in large Ziploc bags so that I can have them even through the drudges of winter. I usually incorporate blueberries into morning oats, smoothies, or pancakes (of course). My favorite smoothie? Vega One Natural flavor, blueberries and a big hunk of fresh ginger combined with ice and almond milk.

4. Unsweetened Almond Milk

Nutrition to note: Low in calories, free from cholesterol and saturated fat, and fortified with calcium, I’ve been swapping dairy milk for unsweetened almond milk for years now. I prefer to not get my calories through added sugars so the word “unsweetened” is key here.

Favorite way to nosh: In smoothies and cereal, in place of dairy in just about every baking dish, and as a vehicle to dip and eat soggy cookies, my family plows through almond milk. Warmed with a dash of cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice, almond milk makes a cozy bedtime treat for fall.

5. Rolled Oats

Nutrition to note: This hearty whole grain is high in fiber (5 grams per half cup), which has been linked to health claims about its ability to help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels4.

Favorite way to nosh:  In the summertime, I combine oats with chia seeds, fresh fruit and nuts, all soaked overnight for an amazing cold muesli breakfast. In winter, I think there are few things better than a piping hot bowl of oatmeal before hitting the ski slopes. And recently, I’ve been blending oats into my smoothies. As the days get shorter and colder, try making a batch of oats in your slow-cooker. Top with apples and almond butter and you’ve got yourself a nutrient dense and delicious breakfast perfect for fall.

What foods do you eat daily?