5 Junk Foods that are Actually Healthy

Generally, nutritionists and dietitians refrain from labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” as it can promote unhealthy attitudes towards food — and, for the most part, any food can be eaten as long as it’s in moderation. But we’re all familiar with junk food: heavily processed and often packaged food products that are high in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium and generally void of nutrients. Cheeseburgers, Cheetos, Twinkies, and french fries might come to mind. But some “junk foods,” like the ones listed below, actually have some redeeming nutritional qualities. They may not be as nutrient-dense as whole, unprocessed foods like blueberries, kale, salmon, and lentils, but they do have a place in any healthy diet (especially when you’re in a pinch and are staring at a Cinnabon menu!). Just eat them in the most unprocessed form you can find– think air-popped popcorn instead of movie theater popcorn.

Chocolate
As long as you’re sticking to dark chocolate–with a cocoa content of 70% or higher–a few pieces of chocolate might just be the perfect dessert. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, antioxidant compounds also found in green tea and red wine, that have been shown to boost heart health by improving cholesterol levels and relaxing blood vessels. One study from San Diego State University, comparing the health effects of dark chocolate versus white chocolate, found that individuals who ate dark chocolate had lower blood sugar levels, perhaps because its antioxidants help the body use insulin more efficiently. But more noteworthy, perhaps, is that white chocolate-eaters experienced a decline in skin blood flow, indicating that the antioxidants present in dark chocolate cancel out the negative effects of fat and sugar.

Pick it: Chocolove Currants & Almonds in Dark Chocolate (73% cocoa content); Scharffen Berger Dark Chocolate (70%); Michel Cluizel Grand Noir (85%)
Skip it: White chocolate; milk chocolate; grocery store truffles

Dark chocolate

Popcorn
A recent study found that popcorn contains more antioxidants than many fruits and vegetables. Because popcorn is only 4% water (fruits and vegetables, in comparison, contain up to 95% water), the antioxidant polyphenols, found in the hull, are more concentrated. One of these polyphenols–ferulic acid–has been found to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. Of course, smothering your popcorn in oil, butter, and salt will reduce the protective benefits of its antioxidants and fiber. Air-popped popcorn is best, as it’s an undoctored whole grain; add flavor with ingredients like turmeric, cardamom, cumin, parmesan cheese, and truffle oil. Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories, so indulge in moderation.

Pick it: Air-popped popcorn with spices, herbs, nuts, or a little butter or parmesan cheese
Skip it: Microwave popcorn; movie theater popcorn

Popcorn

Full-fat salad dressing
Restaurant and fast food salads are often at the top of “worst foods for your waistlines” lists, and that’s often because their dressings pack a ridiculous amount of calories and fat. On The Border’s Chipotle Honey Mustard Dressing adds at least 310 calories and 29 grams of fat to your meal–and that’s only if the chef adheres to the serving size. But the fats found in salad dressings help us absorb nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K and E, lycopene, and beta carotene. In one study, individuals who ate a salad with avocado (rich in monounsaturated fats) absorbed two to fifteen times more lycopene, beta carotene, and alpha carotene than those who ate a fat-free salad. The key is portion size: a standard serving size for salad dressing is two tablespoons, a mere fraction of what you’re likely served at restaurants. Ask for dressing on the side and pour judiciously; or simply dip each bite into the dressing. Look for dressings made with monounsaturated fats (look for olive, canola, avocado, or sesame oil); these will enhance nutrient absorption no matter how much you use, so you can keep calorie consumption in check.

Pick it: Olive-, canola-, avocado-, sesame-, peanut-, and other monounsaturated fat-based oils
Skip it: Fat-free and reduced-fat salad dressings; high-sugar salad dressings; salad dressings high in saturated or trans fats; salad dressings with more than five ingredients

Salad Dressing

Beer
Red wine might steal the spotlight when it comes to antioxidant-rich alcoholic drinks, but don’t overlook beer: it contains just as many antioxidants as wine plus B vitamins and minerals. The hops (which are actually flowers from the plant Humulus Iupulus and are responsible for adding that bitter taste and aroma to beer) contains xanthohumol, an antioxidant that exhibits antiviral, anti-allergic, anti-clotting, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor activity. According to Donald Buhler, PhD., lead author of a study testing beer’s antioxidant effects, xanthohumol is especially potent because of its unique chemical structure that allows it to survive longer in the body, thereby maximizing its disease-fighting effects. As always, drink in moderation: research shows that one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men is associated with improved brain and heart health and stronger bones. Pick stouts or dark ales, which contain higher levels of antioxidants.

Pick it: Guinness Draught; Newcastle Ale; Beck’s Premier Light
Skip it: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot; Samuel Adams Boston Lager; high-calorie beers; sugary cocktails

Red Meat
Good news for most Americans: it’s perfectly healthy to indulge in steak, bison burgers, and lamb chops every so often. Red meat is packed with protein (20-24 grams per three ounce serving), as well as iron, vitamin B12, and zinc. And grass-fed beef has even more benefits: it contains up to one third the amount of fat as corn- or grain-fed beef, and the fats it does have contain more omega-3 fatty acids in addition to conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat that is linked with weight loss and a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. Pick leaner cuts of meat like sirloin and top round; steer clear of fattier cuts, like rib-eye, T-bone, and strip steak, as well as processed meats like bacon, sausage, and deli meats.

Pick it: Grass-fed beef; eye, top, and bottom round roast and steak; sirloin; leg of lamb; bison meat
Skip it: Bacon, sausages, cured meats; hot dogs

Red Meat

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Five Ways to Eat More Mindfully

Back in the caveman days, we spent a good part of our day (and a lot of our energy) looking for food — hunting it, gathering it, picking it. Now, food is literally at our fingertips, whether it’s in the plastic bag in front of you or a phone call away. As a result, eating has become relatively automatic: we’re hungry (or bored, or sad, or happy…), so we head to the pantry and pick whichever snack looks good. Most people no longer think about the short- or long-term impact of that food; they’re focused on the immediate gratification of America’s favorite snack foods: salty chips, sugary cookies, and greasy donuts. So how can we re-teach ourselves to appreciate and select the right foods for us? The answer, according to experts, lies in mindful eating: being present and aware of what you’re eating, its sensations, and its impact on your body and feelings. Mindful eating has multiple benefits: it can reduce the risk of diabetes; it may curb overeating; it could help you lose weight; it can help you manage your emotions. Below are five strategies to eat more mindfully:

Mindful Eating
1. Unitask
Whether you like to watch Food Network, catch up on the news, write emails, or chill out with your Kindle while you eat, unplugging at mealtime can help you focus in on the sensations on your meal. Other sensations apart from those you get directly from food (taste, smell, texture, appearance) can distract Printyou from focusing on those sensations, making it more difficult to register how much you’ve eaten or whether you’re full or not. Sit down at a (preferably set) table and take a minute to appreciate the food you’re about to eat and your surroundings. And at the very least, keep stressful stimuli (like responding to work emails or planning a dinner party) at bay: a study published in the journal Gastroenterology found that attending to two stimuli at once can alter metabolism and halt the digestive process.

2. Eat with your non-dominant hand
Popcorn-eaters who ate with their non-dominant hand ate far fewer calories than Chopsticksthose who snacked with their dominant hand. According to lead researcher David Neal, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California, “When we’ve repeatedly eaten a particular food in a particular environment, our brain comes to associate the food with that environment and makes us keep eating as long as those environmental cues are present.” Altering those environmental cues–that is, by eating with your non-dominant hand–removes the “automatic” part of eating, forcing us to pay attention to our intake. For an extra challenge, try eating with chopsticks using your non-dominant hand–research shows that doing so activates both hemispheres of the brain, strengthening neural connections and stimulating creativity.

3. Chew 40 times
In a recent study, individuals who chewed their food 40 times consumed 12% fewer calories than those who chewed each bite 15 times. The mechanism may be as simple as limiting the amount of food you can actually put in your mouth in a certain time, or it may be physiological: chewing stimulates the production of appetite-suppressing hormones like PYY and curbs the production of ghrelin, an appetite-boosting hormone. As a bonus, more chewing means that your food is broken down further, which may lead to better absorption of nutrients.

4. Put your fork down
You’ve heard it before: it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register fullness. But because most of us can put down a burrito in less than five minutes, it’s important to slow down in order to let your brain catch up with your stomach. Putting your fork down between bites simply prolongs the eating period, allowing you to stop eating when you feel full and not when your food is gone. It also lets you focus on the taste, smell, and texture of your food (as opposed to getting your next forkful ready), so that you can truly taste your food.

Ingredients

5. Identify all the ingredients in the meal
Take a bite of your food and really focus in on the different flavors. Is the overall taste sweet, salty, sour, bitter, or savory? Which herbs and spices can you detect? Identifying each ingredient in a dish helps you stay in the moment and focus exclusively on your meal as opposed to thinking about tomorrow’s deadline.

Four Swaps for a Healthier Super Bowl

Chicken wings, spinach dip, and pizza will be on most people’s menus this weekend as Super Bowl Sunday kicks off–bad news for those of us that like to maintain some semblance of a healthy diet. And unfortunately, your guests probably won’t be too happy if you’re serving up raw sprouted chili and macrobiotic kale chips. But you can still make those traditional recipes healthier with a few minor tweaks–or even switch it up completely with these healthy, but just as tasty, recipes.

Healthy Super Bowl Swaps

Chicken wings
Chicken wings start out as a relatively lean protein–but when they’re deep-fried, covered in butter, and smothered with a sugar- and sodium-laden sauce, they become tiny, easy-to-overeat calorie bombs. Not convinced that a chicken can do that much damage? Lone Star’s chicken wings appetizer clocks in at 1,759 calories; just five chicken wings from Hooters adds 866 calories to your daily count.

Make it healthier: Begin by taking deep-frying out of the process: it not only adds unnecessary calories but also introduces acrylamide, a carcinogenic and neurotoxic by-product of deep-frying, into the equation. Use whole wheat flour and cornmeal for crunch, and call on herbs and spices for flavor; pan-fry the wings for that crispy finish.

Change it up: It’s the sweet and salty coating on chicken wings that most people crave–so try switching out chicken for shrimp. Shrimp is packed with astaxanthin, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation and boosts immune function, as well as selenium and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which contribute to heart health.

Alternatives to Chicken Wings
Recipes to try:
Boneless Buffalo Wings
Healthy Sriracha Chicken “Buffalo” Wings
Spicy Soy Glazed Shrimp Skewers with Grilled Pineapple and Green Onions

Spinach dip
Spinach dip and its close cousin, artichoke dip, don’t exactly count as vegetables. Those greens are hidden behind a heavy base of mayo, sour cream or cream cheese that add tons of saturated fat and calories. The average restaurant serving: 1,600 calories, 100 grams of fat, and 2,500 mg of sodium.

Make it healthier: Replace the mayo, sour cream, or cream cheese with Greek yogurt or cottage cheese to remove most of the dip’s fat-laden calories, add muscle-building protein, and keep its creamy taste and texture. Ingredients like shallots, garlic, herbs, and lemon juice add flavor for minimal calories; double the spinach in the recipe to boost fiber, iron, and vitamins A and K intake.

Change it up: For a vegan spin on spinach dip, use beans as the base: each half cup serving adds 10 grams of satiating fiber, which will keep you from going back for seconds and thirds. Or try a hummus and bean dip hybrid by combining edamame with garbanzo beans, cumin, and spinach.

Alternatives to Spinach Dip

Recipes to try:
Creamy Spinach Dip
Spinach and White Bean Dip
Edamame, Spinach and Garlic Hummus

Pizza
Super Bowl Sunday is the number one day for pizza sales: this year, Domino’s expects to serve up more than 11 million slices. Unfortunately for Americans’ waistlines, saturated fat- and sodium-heavy pepperoni and cheese are the two most popular topping choices. An average slice of pizza holds around 200-300 calories–not bad on its own, but a pretty hefty serving when you eat four or five slices.

Make it healthier: Start with a whole-wheat, thin crust base: it’ll add three grams of filling fiber and remove around 100 calories of refined carbs from each slice. Ask for extra tomato sauce and pile on the veggies–the extra bulk will displace some of that greasy cheese. And stick with leaner meats, like chicken and ham; meatballs, sausage, and pepperoni are packed with sodium and saturated fat.

Change it up: Sub out the refined carbs of pizza dough — which contribute to many of pizza’s calories — for nutrient-rich portobello mushroom caps. Large portobello caps are the perfect vehicle for tangy sauce and melted cheese, and because they’re so low in calories, they offer more room for decadent toppings like pesto and prosciutto. Try slices of eggplant if you’re not a mushroom fan.

Healthy Alternatives to Pizza

Recipes to try:
Whole Wheat Pizza with Artichokes and Pecorino
Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

Chili
Whether your chili lies atop a bed of spaghetti or drowns a hotdog, it’s probably too high in both calories and saturated fat thanks to generous servings of ground beef, cheese, and sour cream. An average bowl of beef chili can pack up to 600 calories–and that doesn’t count add-ons like chips and cornbread.

Make it healthier: Pick a bean-based recipe: beans are high in both protein and fiber (7 and 6 grams, respectively, per half cup), which help keep blood sugar levels–and thus energy and mood–stable during the big game. They’re also a good source of potassium, iron, folate, manganese, copper, and zinc. Sneak in vegetables (like tomatoes, zucchini, carrots and peppers) to add more nutrients; they’ll easily hide behind spices like cumin, paprika and chili powder.

Change it up: Posole, a traditional Mexican soup made with hominy and chicken (or sometimes pork), is fresh and light, making it a perfect side for heavier Super Bowl foods. Lime juice and cilantro add flavor for minimal calories, while radish and iceberg lettuce provide satisfying crunch.

Healthier Alternatives to Chili

Recipes to try:
Vegetarian Chili with Roasted Chilies
Superfast Chicken Posole

The Top 4 Reasons Why Diets Fail

At any given time, 66% of Americans are trying to lose weight or are on a diet — and yet almost the same percentage is either overweight or obese. And with so many different types of diets — from going vegan to the Paleo Diet — why are the majority of Americans failing to lose or maintain weight? According to Dr. Jessica Bartfield, M.D., who specializes in nutrition and weight management at the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care, there are four main reasons why dieters don’t lose weight. Read on to find out what they are — and the ways to sidestep each problem.

1. Underestimating Calories Consumed
The roadblock: According to numerous studies, humans tend to underestimate how many calories their meals and snacks have as well as the amount of calories they consume in one day. Experts speculate that Americans typically underestimate their caloric intake by 30% and sometimes as much as 45%. For the average male, that’s an excess of 720 calories per day — which, by conventional wisdom, could result in a gain of more than one pound per week. And unfortunately, restaurants are no better at estimating their meal’s calorie counts: a study from Tufts University found that one out of five restaurant dishes contains more than 100 calories than what’s listed in their nutritional information.

The fix: To reconcile the amount of calories you actually consume with the amount you think you consume, begin by measuring out your servings. That morning bowl of cereal — of which a serving clocks in at 120 foodjournalcalories — might actually be three servings, upping your calorie count to 360. Measure out the given serving (usually ¾ – 1 cup) until you can eyeball a correct serving size. Keeping a food diary and writing down every single food you eat and drink (every last morsel!) will also help: in a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, participants who kept a food journal lost 6 more pounds than those who didn’t. Don’t forget to record drinks (the average American consumes between 140 and 180 calories per day from sugary drinks) and the bites and tastes you might get at a grocery store.

2. Overestimating Activity and Calories Burned
The roadblock: That elliptical that says you just burned 450 calories? It’s a gross overestimation. The University of California at San Francisco used VO2 testing to ellipticaltrack fat burning and found that the calorie trackers on ellipticals overestimated calories burnt by 42%; the overestimation was less so on other machines (13% on treadmills, 7% on the stationary bike, and 12% on the stairclimber), but still enough to make a dent in your calorie output. The reason? Most exercise machines are calibrated for a 150 pound female; if you weigh less than that, you’ll burn fewer calories. They also don’t accurately measure your heart rate, which plays a role in the amount of calories you burn. Compounding this issue is the fact that many exercisers tend to reward themselves with food following a tough workout, believing that they “earned” those calories in that Jamba Juice Peanut Butter Moo’d or Grand Slam breakfast. So even if you just spent an hour burning 250-400 calories, that work can all be undone — and then some — in five minutes.

The fix: First, calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate: this is the amount of energy, or calories, your body requires to function at rest, and varies according to genetics, gender, age, weight, body surface area, body fat percentage, diet, exercise, and a number of other factors. To determine how many calories you need a day while taking into account your activity level (from sedentary to extreme), use the Harris Benedict Equation; this will leave you with the amount of calories you need to maintain your weight with your current activity level. Indirect calorimetry, which measures carbon dioxide production and oxygen consumption during rest and steady-state exercise, is the gold standard for measuring energy expenditure, but it’s too time-consuming and expensive to use on an individual basis. Several body monitors (like the BodyMedia Fit Link and FitBit) measure your calorie output, but even they can be inconsistent and inaccurate; online calculators measure the calories burned according to weight and activity. Your best bet may be to simply eat when you truly feel hungry and not according to how many calories you may have burned working out.

3. Poor Timing of Meals
The roadblock: Skipping breakfast, powering through the day without lunch, and late night snacking might all be the reasons you’re not losing weight. According to the National Weight Control Registry, eating breakfast is a shared characteristic of successful dieters (78% of those who lost and maintained a 30 pound weight loss regularly ate breakfast). Experts believe that eating a fiber- and protein-rich meal first thing in the morning stimulates your metabolism and keeps you from bingeing later on in the day. Regular snacks and a balanced lunch do the same thing; plus, they keep your mood and energy elevated so you don’t reach for comfort foods like chips and candy later in the day. And researchers now believe that late-night eating may, in fact, play a role in weight gain and loss: in a study from Northwestern University, rats who ate during their normal sleeping phase, as compared to those who ate during normal daily activity, experienced a 48% boost to their body weight, despite similar levels of activity and calorie consumption. Lead researcher Dr. Fred Turek and Deanna Arble theorize that our bodies, which run on circadian rhythms, are primed to burn calories more efficiently at certain times.

The fix: Start with breakfast: aim to eat a fiber- and protein-rich meal within one hour of waking. Eating a balanced breakfast jumpstarts your Breakfast, Lunch and Dinnerbody’s metabolism, maintains steady blood sugar and energy levels, and helps stave off mid-morning cravings. Eat lunch about 4 ½ hours after breakfast, and dinner a few hours after that; waiting longer in between meals will only intensify your hunger and lead you to make less healthy food choices. Plan 150- to 200-calorie snacks (think an apple with almond butter or hummus and veggies) in between meals to keep hunger at bay. Plan to eat dinner no less than three hours before sleep: it may not only lead to weight gain, but the increased circulating insulin prevents the release of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. In terms of other mealtime planning, sandwich weight lifting or intense exercise with complex carbohydrates and protein.

4. Inadequate Sleep
The roadblock: According to Dr. Bartfield, “studies have shown that people who get fewer than six hours of sleep have higher levels of ghrelin, which is a hormone that stimulates appetite, particularly for high-carbohydrate/high-calorie foods.” One study, specifically, found that sleep-deprived subjects ate an extra 549 calories a day–enough to make you gain an extra pound every week. Sleep deprivation is also linked to leptin, the hormone that signals satiety; plus, lack of sleep lowers willpower, increases cravings for high-calorie foods, and raises levels of cortisol, a stress hormone linked to weight gain. All of these factors combined make inadequate sleep a powerful precursor to weight gain.

The fix: To get more sleep, you need to to identify what is preventing you from getting enough sleep–and that could be any number of reasons, from drinking too much caffeine to poor time management. But no matter what your reason is, there are a number of simple fixes you can make to add more hours of sleep to your day. Begin by setting a bedtime: count back seven to eight hours before you have to wake up. Keep track of this time so that when 11PM rolls around, you’re in bed (not starting to get ready for bed). Shut off electronics about an hour before this time: TVs, computers, and cellphones emit blue light, which disrupts our circadian rhythms and melatonin production, tricking our bodies into believing it’s still daytime. And finally, exercise in the morning. And finally, avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.

Bang for your Buck Nutrition: the Cheapest and Healthiest Foods

In August of 2011, a study from the School of Public Health at the University of Washington concluded that eating healthfully is too expensive for most Americans. According to lead study author Dr. Pablo Monsivais, purchasing healthy, nutrient-packed foods could tack on $380 to your average grocery bill. And it certainly seems that way, with a half pint of raspberries costing as much as $5 and omega-3 packed salmon more than $24.99 a pound. But eating nutritiously can be cheap — as long as you pick the right foods. Below are ten of the cheapest but most nutritious foods:

1. Beans: $.12 per ¼ cup, uncooked (about ½ – ¾ cup cooked)
For just more than a dime, beans offer a whopping 15 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein, making them a hunger-quashing powerhouse that neither whole grains nor meat can rival. In addition to maintaining steady blood sugar and energy levels, fiber boosts digestive health, helps to lower cholesterol, and reduces the risk of both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Protein is also satiating, and, of course, it’s imperative for muscle growth. Dried beans are cheaper and lower in sodium than canned beans, but canned beans are still a bargain at around $.50 per serving.

2. Eggs: $.17 per 1 egg

Eggs are considered the gold standard for protein: in fact, they’re used as a reference point for the biological value scale, which measures the proportion of protein that is actually absorbed and used by your body. But even though more than half of the protein is found in the whites, don’t throw away the yolk: it’s rich in a choline, a nutrient that plays a role in brain and liver health and helps to reduce inflammation, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that boost eye health.

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3. Sweet Potatoes: $.30 per medium sweet potato
Sweet potatoes owe their bright orange color to beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which helps maintain a strong immune system, healthy skin, and good vision. Sweet potatoes might be one of the most practical source of beta-carotene, as they’re available year-round and, according to some studies, offer a more bioavailable form of the nutrient than leafy green vegetables. They’re also high in fiber; in fact, they improve (not just maintain) blood sugar levels, making them an ideal side dish for diabetics and healthy people alike.

4. Canned tuna: $.60 per ½ can
Fresh tuna can cost anywhere from $15 to $45 per pound — but you can get a much more affordable package at the grocery store. One five ounce can, which costs just $1.10, offers 36 grams of protein — a bonus for those trying to lose weight: a recent study found that high-protein dieters lost twice as much belly fat as low-protein dieters. But what makes tuna especially nutritious is its omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk for both cardiovascular disease and stroke. (If you’re worried about mercury content, pick canned salmon — although it’s a bit more expensive, at $1.00 per serving.)

5. Lentils: $.10 per ¼ cup, uncooked (about ½ to ¾ cup cooked)
Lentils, like beans, are high in fiber — but that’s not their only claim to fame when it comes to heart health: they’re also rich in folate and magnesium. Folate help reduce levels of circulating homocysteine, which is a risk factor for heart disease; magnesium regulates blood flow and blood pressure. Lentils also provide iron, a mineral that is easiest to get through more expensive meat and poultry.

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6. Bananas: $.35 per banana
Next time you’re out and about, carry a banana instead of heading to the vending machine: they certainly beat that $1.99 pack of pretzels in terms of cost and nutrition, and they’re already packaged into a portable snack. They’re also a great option for athletes: a recent study from Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab found that cyclists who ate bananas during intense exercise performed just as well as those drinking a carbohydrate-based sports drink; plus, they got the added benefits of fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6.

7. Spinach: $.33 per 2 cups
Calorie for calorie, leafy green vegetables — like spinach — provide more nutrients than any other food. Spinach contains more than twelve flavonoids that have been shown to reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer. Popeye’s favorite food also contains more than 200% of your daily recommended value for vitamin K, which maintains bone health. Serve spinach with a healthy fat (like an olive oil-based dressing) to maximize absorption of nutrients.

8. Peanut butter: $.15 per two tablespoons
Talk of antioxidants often conjures up images of vividly colored fruits and dark green vegetables — but peanuts actually contain more antioxidants than blackberries and strawberries. According to University of Florida researchers, peanuts are rich in p-coumaric acid, a polyphenol that fights neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disease. In addition to healthy monounsaturated fats, peanut butter boasts protein, fiber, calcium and iron. Pick natural peanut butter to cut down on added sugars and sodium.

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9. Oats: $.15 per ½ cup, cooked
Oats beat out every type of breakfast cereal in terms of cost and nutrition. Because oats are unrefined, their nutrients remain intact, including zinc, magnesium, iron and antioxidants. Oats are also one of the richest dietary sources of soluble fiber, which, in addition to boosting satiety, protects against heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Dress oats up with cinnamon, coconut flakes, fruit, and nuts.

10. Skim milk: $.20 per 8-ounce cup
Skim milk is your best bet when it comes to dairy — it’s cheaper than yogurt, offers more calcium than whole or 2% milk, and contains no unhealthy unsaturated fats. Besides offering 30% of your daily intake for calcium, 9 grams of protein, and B vitamins, skim milk might be a powerful tool for weight loss: a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that participants with the greatest intake of calcium from dairy experienced the most weight loss.

How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Eating healthfully right after the holidays is relatively easy: in all likelihood, you’ve feasted on as much eggnog, christmas cookies, and latkes as you can, and your body is craving healthy, whole, clean foods. It’s maintaining your healthy resolutions a few weeks later that poses the most difficulty: in fact, according to John Tierney, co-author of “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” one third of Americans will have already broken their resolutions by the end of January.

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The reason? As humans, we run out of willpower, which is an exhaustible resource, just like physical energy. Willpower is like a muscle: use it enough, and you’ll exhaust it. Studies have confirmed that we have a limited supply of willpower, and when it’s used up, it’s very difficult to exert self-control. According to the lead author, William Hedgecock, Ph.D., of one study, “if you exert a significant amount of self control at one time, you’ll have a hard time exerting it later.” So if you’re able to resist a plate of high-calorie appetizers on New Year’s Eve, you’ll be far less likely to resist the all-you-can-eat champagne brunch the next day. Roy F. Baumeister, a social psychologist at Florida State University, calls this state “ego depletion.” And in an ironic twist for dieters, our willpower reserves are actually fueled by glucose — found in tempting cookies, cakes, and pasta.

Baumeister believes that the smartest way to follow through with your New Year’s resolution — and to deal with the limited supply of self-control that you have — is to anticipate those limits. In his study, published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, participants’ reactions to temptations were tracked throughout the day. Researchers noted that those who are able to resist temptations the most were those who planned ahead of time to avoid those temptations in the first place. By avoiding situations in which they would have to exert great amounts of self-control — like the bakery section that always has tasty samples — they reserved their willpower for tempting situations they had not been anticipating.

To put this knowledge to good use, identify the situations in your life that make it difficult to stick to your healthy eating habits. If you can’t resist your bagel-and-cream cheese breakfast every morning from the shop around the corner, reroute your walk to work. Or if cocktails are your weakness, skip happy hour; catch up with friends over tea or on a hike. Likewise, plan for occasional splurges: if you plan on having a slice of cake at a wedding, you’re not using up any willpower. But if you tell yourself “No dessert!” every time you go out to a restaurant and then give in once the dessert tray comes around, you’re simply exhausting your self-control again and again.

There’s other ways you can build up willpower, too. Just like other muscles, you can strengthen it. These tips will help you bulk up your willpower:

1. Eat balanced meals and snacks containing fiber, protein, and healthy fats. These help maintain steady blood sugar levels, which keeps glucose flowing to your brain at a steady pace. According to the American Psychological Association, “brain cells working hard to maintain self-control consume glucose faster than can be replenished.” Feeding your body with nutritious food at regular intervals has benefits beyond self-control, though: it’ll keep you from bingeing on fatty foods, desserts and drinks later on in the evening at holiday parties or happy hour.

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2. Pick the right motivation: if your motivation for eating healthier is intrinsic — say, eating healthfully because it makes you feel good — as opposed to extrinsic (eating healthfully so you can fit into your skinny jeans), you’ll have more success, says a study from the University of Albany. Similarly, if your goals are more long-term than short-term, you’re likely to keep your resolution. In a study from Columbia University, participants were better able to resist tempting foods when they thought about their long-term health goals, rather than the instant gratification of tasty foods.

3. Make a fist: a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that participants who clenched their muscles were better able to exert self-control when faced with tempting foods. So next time you find yourself in a tempting situation — walking down the candy aisle, for example — clench your fists to resist falling for your favorite unhealthy foods.

4. Ignore this article! A 2010 study from Stanford University found that those who believed their willpower was exhaustible were most likely to have their willpower depleted. But those who believed that willpower was in unlimited supply were better able to exert self-control.

10 Healthy Quinoa Salad Recipes

By now, most everyone knows about the virtues of quinoa: a seed known to the Incas as “the mother of all grains,” it’s high in muscle-building protein and hunger-quashing fiber. And containing all essential amino acids, including lysine and isoleucine, it’s a smart addition to vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets alike. Vitamin E, which plays a role in keeping inflammation at bay, as well as calcium, the phytonutrient betacyanin and antioxidants ferulic and coumaric acids, quercetin and kaempferol round out its nutritional profile. It’s even been recognized by the UN as a potential key player in worldwide nutrition: it has named 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa,” calling for foodies and non-foodies alike to “focus world attention on the role that quinoa biodiversity can play, owing to the the nutritional value of quinoa, in providing food security and nutrition in the eradication of poverty.”

On its own, quinoa has a nutty taste and chewy texture — but it can be somewhat boring. But dressing it up with vegetables, herbs, spices and dressings makes it not only tasty and filling, but a satisfying and complete meal. These ten recipes have different flavor profiles; but they have in common clean, whole ingredients offering plenty of nutrients. To add more bulk to your meal, double the vegetables in the recipe.

Quinoa Salad with Kale, Grapefruit and Mint

Quinoa Salad with Kale, Grapefruit and Mint

Ingredients
Half a bunch of kale, rinsed and finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 package mint, finely chopped (about ½ cup packed)
2 grapefruits
¼ cup toasted coconut
Salt and pepper

Method
Cook quinoa: bring to a boil with two cups water or vegetable stock; cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Massage kale with olive oil; let sit.

Add quinoa, chopped mint, grapefruit segments and their juice, and toasted coconut; toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9 Healthy Quinoa Recipes

Quinoa Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing from Two Peas and Their Pod

Roasted Veggie Quinoa Salad from The Talking Kitchen

Layered Quinoa Salad with Beet Vinaigrette from Family Fresh Cooking

Mexican Quinoa Salad from Recipe Girl

Quinoa, Fennel and Pomegranate Salad from Bon Appetit

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans, Red Pepper, and Cilantro from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Red Quinoa with Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pecans from Gluten Free Goddess

Spicy Carrot and Quinoa Salad with Coconut Lime Dressing from The Year in Food

Tomato Basil Quinoa Salad from The Diva-Dish