Being a dietitian means I am open to trying new cuisines, enjoy talking about food, love to cook, and I use that hands-on experience to teach others. Since the topic of this article is about favorite dishes, I thought I would give my favorite foods from each of the main food groups: fruit, dairy, veggies, bread, proteins and fats. Here’s an inside look at the dietitian’s favorite things to eat.
Let’s start with one of my favorite food groups: fruits. I love any kind of fruit, but my absolute favorites are pineapple, oranges, melon, strawberries and apples. I love them because they’re versatile; they give you vitamins like C, A and fiber from the skin and peels. I like to incorporate my fruit into a morning protein smoothie with fresh fruit or 100% fruit juice with no added preservatives, lean protein powder, chia seeds and ice. Blend it really well and enjoy!
A little tip: If you’re pre diabetic or have diabetes, eat the fruits whole to receive the fiber from the peel/skin. This will keep your blood sugar at a normal range without the sugar spikes from the straight fruit juice.
The next group that’s one of my favorites is dairy. I’m a huge fan of dairy, whether it’s from milk, yogurt, or cheese. When I’m in a jam and need to have a quick snack, I love fat-free Greek yogurt. It has all of the calcium and vitamin D you could dream of, and it has a great amount of protein in it to keep you feeling full. Plus, it’s delicious! Add in some fresh fruit and some sliced almonds, and you have a great snack or a fast breakfast.
And who doesn’t love cheese? I love low-fat Provolone or low-fat Pepper Jack cheese on a sandwich or on the side with some whole wheat crackers for a mid-afternoon snack. It’s satisfying and it doesn’t weigh on your conscience. Here’s an insider’s tip: try out some snack cheese wedges that you can find in the grocery store. They’re easy to grab and go, throw in your lunch bag for work or throw into an egg white omelette for breakfast.
Veggies! I’m a HUGE veggie fan. Between carrots, any type of lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, cauliflower, asparagus, or eggplant— sign me up! People think that since I’m a registered dietitian, all I eat are salads. Well, I’m not a rabbit. It just so happens that I’m a huge salad lover and will sometimes have two a day, one for lunch and one for dinner. But that’s not the typical norm for dietitians or people in general.
So what does my typical salad look like for lunch? I start with a hearty lettuce base such as spinach. Then I throw on my toppings: tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, artichoke hearts and avocado. Next is my protein source where I’ll vary from day to day. Sometimes it’s grilled fish like salmon. Other days it’s grilled chicken breast with some fat-free Feta cheese. And if I’m feeling really adventurous, I’ll throw on some lean grilled carne asada. Throw on some of your favorite low calorie dressing, or make your own with olive oil, lemon or vinegar! Building your own salad means you can get creative and experiment with different veggies and flavors.
Another favorite of mine are carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are necessary for our body to function and run properly for the entire day. Some essential carbs that I keep in my pantry are: whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, whole wheat crackers, various grains such as quinoa, couscous, brown rice and whole grain oats. You need to have carbs at every meal and snack to make sure that your body is functioning at its highest level. I like to make bulk quantities of quinoa and whole grain couscous to keep in my fridge. This way, it’s already made and you can throw it into any meal as a stir fry for dinner or throw it in cold with your salad for lunch.
To assure that you won’t have those pesky sugar spikes, diabetics (and non-diabetics) need to make sure to eat carbohydrates with protein. The protein will keep your blood sugar levels in the normal range, while still gaining energy. A good rule of thumb is that whenever you eat a carb, grab a protein as well. Having a slice of toast? Throw on a tablespoon of natural peanut butter. Having spaghetti with tomato sauce? Throw in some lean ground turkey to balance the carb to protein ratio.
Next up is protein, referring to meats and beans. I like all kinds of meat, but my go to ones are lean ground beef, lean ground turkey, all white chicken breast, lean turkey deli meat, fish, such as salmon, tilapia and shrimp and lastly, lean cuts of beef like skirt steak. For beans, my favorite are pinto, black beans, Great Northern white beans and red kidney beans. People often forget that beans are considered a protein as well as a carbohydrate. Just by adding beans to a meal, you’re gaining your protein and when paired with a carbohydrate (like rice), you’re eating a complete protein meal. Don’t forget too, if you’re vegetarian, vegan or looking to try it out, tofu is available as a protein as well. Tofu can take on many different flavors and can be added to any meal.
Last but not least are the fats and oils. I like to stick with extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil when I’m grilling or cooking. As for foods that contain healthy oils, I love throwing avocado on my salad or in a sandwich. Natural peanut butter is great too because it has healthy fats and is also a protein. I also love walnuts and almonds, which can be put in the protein category. And lastly, when it comes to dressings and sauces, I stick with natural ingredient dressings, using their oil base as either extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil.
So there you have it…a look into my world of food and dietitian’s go-to foods. Remember to enjoy your food! Feeding your body healthy fuel will keep your body running properly and longer!