The good-for-you staples, snacks, and treats that health experts are really eating-plus, how you add them to your diet. By Lisa Whitmore
"When I need a boost after a workout, I'll eat a small spoonful right out of the jar," says Kathy Kaehler, a fitness expert in Los Angeles. A bonus: Studies show that eating almonds can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
"If I crave ice cream at night, I have a handful of these instead," says Lacey Stone, a fitness professional in New York City. "They're so sweet, they do the job."
"Believe it or not, I've loved them since I was a kid," says Elisa Zied, a registered dietitian in New York City and the author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips ($19, amazon.com.) "They're rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids." She eats them straight from the can: "But no heads or tails, please!"
"It's one of my favorite foods," says Yvonne Castaneda, a fitness manager at the Sports Club/LA, in Miami, who eats it with berries, honey, and almonds. Plain Greek yogurt is generally higher in protein and lower in sugar than regular yogurt, so it helps keep blood sugar stable and staves off a midmorning crash.
"The healthy fats help me focus and perform better," says Tiffany Boucher, a trainer at Equinox in New York City. "I'll put a few fillets in a Ziploc Zip'n Steam bag, throw it in the microwave, and have dinner for several nights-no need to prep food after a long workday."
"It provides fiber, which fills me up, and I have it with fruit for even more nutrients," says Zied, who adds a sliced banana to her bowl before pouring on skim milk. "Shredded wheat is a great choice because it has very little added sodium. That's rare when it comes to ready-to-eat cereals."
"You don't need much to get a lot of taste payoff," says Lisa Drayer, a registered dietitian in New York City and the author of The Beauty Diet ($23, amazon.com). She sprinkles it on pasta, salads, and soups. Parmesan packs more calcium than many other cheeses: One ounce provides over 30 percent of most women's daily recommended intake.
Naturally, every expert extolled the virtues of plain water. But, yes, even they get bored with it sometimes. Drayer switches it up with seltzer: "I add a splash of cranberry or orange juice-sweet, easy, and refreshing." Those not watching calories should feel free to go with up to a 50/50 mix, says Drayer.
"I eat one almost every day," says Michael Kaplan, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and the chief medical officer of the Center for Medical Weight Loss, headquartered in Tarrytown, New York. They're full of fiber and antioxidants and may help reduce your risk of developing colon and liver cancers. "A Brazilian study even found that eating three apples daily may aid in weight loss," says Kaplan.
Several experts like the cholesterol-lowering benefits of whole-grain cereals, such as classic Cheerios and steel-cut oats. Drayer mixes Newman's Sweet Enough Cinnamon Fiber Flakes with Kashi Heart to Heart to add variety. "It makes for a more interesting breakfast," she says.
"If I don't get to sit down for a proper breakfast, this is a good substitute," says Boucher, who likes Luna Blueberry Bliss and Vanilla Almond bars. "These have 8 to 10 grams of protein and provide one-third of my daily calcium." New York City trainer David Kirsch loves the ease of bars so much that he created his own, called the Kirschbar. "It contains whey protein and six grams of fiber," he says. "And best of all, it tastes like real food."
"Some foodie friends may be shocked to hear this, but I drink eight ounces of organic chocolate skim milk most mornings, with breakfast or after my workout," says Zied. (Research suggests that the mix of protein and carbohydrates in chocolate milk can make it an effective postexercise recovery drink.) The childhood favorite is loaded with calcium and vitamin D. Zied counts it as a nutritious treat. "I just cut back on added sugar elsewhere," she says.
"Eggs have an undeserved bad reputation," says Kaplan, who enjoys up to two daily. In fact, eggs contain nutrients that can benefit your eyes, brain, and hair. And according to one study, they may help prevent blood clots, which could lower the risk of a stroke or a heart attack. Chicago trainer Don Scott, at Jim Karas Personal Training, calls them "my no-fuss, easy-transport snack."
"I stash them in my bag, my car-they're great for on-the-go," says Sara Haley, a trainer in Los Angeles, who likes nuts for their protein and good fats. They can help lower cholesterol, and one study showed that walnuts in particular have strong antioxidant benefits. Haley buys them in single-serving packets at Whole Foods to keep portions in check: "Even healthy calories can add up."
"I love to carry these in my bag for a good, quick source of energy," says Castaneda, who mixes hers with a handful of nuts for a balanced snack. Chewy and sweet, "they stay fresh much longer than a whole apple," she says.
"They're my non-chocolate candy of choice," says Zied. "My husband and I split a pack at the movies, or I keep them in the pantry and indulge every few days." Zied's key to fitting these into her diet? "I limit myself to about three at a time," she says. (A "health" benefit: They're low in fat.)
"When I want something sweet after a meal, I reach for these," says Haley. Since caramels take a while to eat, you can stop at one or two and still be satisfied. (Of course, a tooth brushing afterward is required.)