Eating healthy doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Some of the healthiest foods you can eat are already familiar — you’re just not eating enough of them. Whether you want to lose weight, decrease your disease risk, or you’re just determined to start eating healthier, add these foods to your fridge and pantry ASAP.
The healthiest dairy product: Nonfat Greek yogurt (plain)
Why it’s good for you: According to Rodale Wellness, Greek yogurt has double the amount of protein you’d get from eating regular yogurt. It also contains about half the amount of sugar. Some brands, like Chobani, also contain live cultures of bacteria called probiotics, which are important for gut health.
Keep in mind: Flavored yogurt, and yogurt with fruit on the bottom, both contain massive amounts of added sugar — even Greek varieties. However, you can start with plain yogurt and add your own fruits for a flavor boost.
The healthiest grain: Brown rice
Why it’s good for you: Live Science says brown rice might be one of the healthiest whole grains on the market. It’s extremely low in calories, at just 216 calories per cooked cup. Unlike white rice and other processed grains, brown rice packs in tons of fiber and protein — both important nutrients for weight loss.
Isn’t quinoa healthier? Experts consider quinoa a healthy source of whole grains. But you can still stick with the basics. Eating quinoa instead of brown rice doesn’t make much of a difference. If brown rice is all you have, don’t stress — just eat.
The healthiest fruit: Apples
Why it’s good for you: An apple might seem like a basic (maybe boring) fruit to choose. It’s not exotic or overly sweet, depending on the variety you pick. But this fruit provides plenty of fiber and antioxidants in a very small package, says Healthline. At less than 100 calories per apple, that’s a pretty delicious deal.
How to dip healthfully: A gooey caramel-coated apple tastes great. But there are much healthier ways to dip when you’re incorporating apples into a healthy snack regimen (caramel makes it a dessert — let’s be honest). Nut butter, yogurt, even cinnamon and honey provide far less sugar than your go-to dip.
The healthiest vegetable: Spinach
Why it’s good for you: Spinach is actually an excellent source of protein, in addition to the copious amounts of fiber that come with fresh plant foods. It’s more than just a leaf. You can get calcium, iron, and vitamin A in just one cup of this versatile veggie.
What to do with it: There aren’t many meals or snacks spinach can’t find a place in. Aside from a crunchy salad, you can use spinach in pasta, as part of an omelet or frittata, and even as an edible garnish for a hearty meat dish. Roll it into your taco or wrap. Bake it into a lasagna. Get creative!
The healthiest protein (animal): Grass-fed beef
Why it’s good for you: You don’t have to give up beef to stay healthy! Knowing where your meat comes from, and how it’s raised, can make a huge difference when purchasing organic or grass-fed beef. It’s worth eating, since it contains protein you might not get if you don’t eat enough plant sources.
Quantity matters, too: Red meat usually only causes problems when we eat too much of it, according to Health.com. Experts recommend you don’t eat it every day, especially when you’re trying to decrease your saturated fat intake. A few times a week, in reasonably-sized portions, is fine.
The healthiest protein (plant): Beans
Why it’s good for you: According to Rodale’s Organic Life, beans are the fiber and protein powerhouses every dieter and aspiring healthy eater needs to eat more of. You don’t have to eat beans for every meal, or even every day. But as a healthier side than refined grains or a substitute for higher-fat meat entrees, beans will fill you up and keep you full for hours.
The best way to eat them: Fresh always trumps canned. If you can sacrifice convenience for a slightly healthier side dish, it’s worth your time. You’ll need to wash your beans and soak them overnight before cooking, but it’s easy to dump them into a slow cooker and go from there.
The healthiest snack food: Homemade popcorn
Why it’s good for you: Even though snack foods aren’t technically their own food group, let’s be honest — you’re going to snack. And when you do, you should reach for something healthy. Popping your own popcorn is an oddly satisfying way to fill you up without adding too many calories to your daily total.
Why snacking rules: Telling yourself you can’t snack sometimes just makes you want to snack more. A snack doesn’t mean you’re automatically required to choose something unhealthy. Healthy snacking can be part of a healthy diet, as long as you’re making smart, healthy choices like you hopefully do at meals.