15 Foods Nutritionists Eat Every Day—and So Should You
If you want a healthy diet, why not take tips from the experts: Nutritionists reveal the foods they eat every day—and why they should be on your menu.
Nutritionists are nuts about nuts, and for good reason. They provide plant-based protein, heart-healthy fats, and fiber to keep you feeling satisfied. Kristie LeBeau, RDN, a dietitian in Redlands, CA, eats nuts every day because “research has shown they have many health benefits including promoting a healthy weight and a reduction in heart disease risk factors.”
Kate Chury, RD, makes it a habit to eat two Brazil nuts every day because they’re rich in selenium. “Selenium is an essential micronutrient that has antioxidant properties and is involved in thyroid health, the immune system, and fertility,” Chury says. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest that eating two Brazil nuts a day can improve selenium status, she says.
Whether it’s spinach or kale in their smoothies, big salads at lunch or roasted Brussels sprouts at dinner, greens are on nutritionists’ daily menu. They’re rich in nutrients such as folate, a B vitamin you need for healthy red blood cells, beta-carotene and lutein for healthy eyes, and vitamin K for blood clotting.
Melissa Groves, RDN, owner of Avocado Grove Nutrition in Portsmouth, NH, eats her greens daily. She explains, “A recent study showed that people who ate at least one serving a day of leafy greens experienced slower cognitive decline than people who didn’t, equating to being 11 years younger!” These are the healthiest vegetables you can eat.
Nutritionists love raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries because they’re all rich in fiber and vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant. A recent study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that older adults who get the equivalent of one cup of fresh blueberries every day (they took it in the form of 24 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder) did better on tests of brainpower than people who got a placebo. Talk about brain food!
As a nutritionist, I have some avocado every day on toast, as a dip for vegetables, and as a good fat in my desserts. Try my Chocolate Avocado Truffles and my Mint Chocolate Avocado Pudding for healthy treats you can feel good about eating. Avocados are packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, also known as omega-9s. This creamy fruit is also a good source of fiber for healthy digestion. Plus, avocados are a good source of vitamin K, a nutrient that’s important for bone health. Read up on the 17 best healthy-eating secrets from nutritionists.
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Yogurt gets top marks from nutritionists thanks to its healthy probiotic bacteria. Most choose Greek yogurt for an extra boost of protein for muscle growth and maintenance. “Many Americans are falling short on their daily calcium. A cup of plain Greek yogurt provides about 1/4 of the calcium needed daily by most Americans,” says Joan Salge Blake, RDN, a clinical associate professor at Boston University.
Jess Cording, RDN, a dietitian in New York City, agrees: “Aside from providing satisfying protein, the probiotic bacteria in the yogurt are beneficial for digestive health, immune system function, and supporting clear gut-brain communication.”
Not only are beans high in fiber, they’re rich in plant-based protein. Nutritionists love beans, lentils, and chickpeas (collectively known as pulses) in everything from chili, pasta, and soups to salads and pureed into baked goods. Jessica Spiro, RD, a San Diego-based dietitian, says she eats beans every day because “they contain a variety of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron, and zinc. They are also affordable and versatile.”
Sharon Palmer, RD, a dietitian in Duarte, CA, points out that pulses are an important part of her daily menu thanks to their disease-fighting phytochemicals. Some of these compounds could protect cells from damage that’s linked to cancer, especially colon cancer, according to a study in the journal Foods. Here are 50 more of the healthiest buys at the supermarket.
Fiber-rich oats hold a special place in the hearts of nutritionists—and it’s time to welcome them into your day! Eating oats helps lower unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels, so they’re a great choice for heart health. Dianna Dillon, RDN, of Kansas City, MO, shares that, “Oats are super filling and loaded with soluble fiber—specifically beta glucan—to keep me feeling full and fueled. I also love them because they support lactation.”
Low in carbohydrates and packed with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein, chia seeds are extremely filling. And have you ever seen what happens when you add chia seeds to water? They expand the same way they do in your digestive tract; that means they help you fill up faster and stay full longer. A study in Journal of Food Science and Technology suggests the seeds may also help control blood sugar levels and promote healthy digestion and a healthy heart. Try my Cherry Chia Overnight Oats to get the health benefits of chia and several other foods on our list! Here are 17 on-the-go snacks nutritionists always keep in their bags.
Here’s why nutritionists love this great spread: “I eat peanut butter every day because peanuts contain arginine, resveratrol, and other antioxidants,” says registered dietitian Bridget Swinney, RD. Peanut butter is also rich in niacin, a B vitamin that is needed for skin and nerve health and helps turn your food into energy—and it may help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This delicious spread is also an excellent source of vitamin E, a nutrient that acts as an antioxidant and can protect against coronary heart disease.
Expert tip: Make sure you choose natural peanut butter that doesn’t have sugar and other additives. Read the ingredients list—all you should see is peanuts and perhaps some salt.
Scrambled, poached, or hard-boiled, egg recipes are a favorite of Shannon A. Garcia, RD, a dietitian in San Antonio, TX. As an expectant mom, she values eggs as a source of choline and quality protein. “Choline is an essential nutrient important throughout the lifespan. It’s especially important during pregnancy for both mom and baby, yet less than 10 percent of pregnant women are consuming the daily recommended intake.” Choline helps the body make use of other nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. Eggs also contain vitamin D, a nutrient that’s key for bone health. Sarah Pflugradt, RDN, an adjunct faculty at Southwest Illinois College in Belleville, IL, eggs every day because “they contain lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that are important for eye health.”
Sauerkraut and kimchi
Fermented foods are gaining more attention in the nutrition world thanks to their positive effects on your gut microbiome. Sauerkraut and kimchi are both made from fermented cabbage, a food that’s naturally high in fiber and vitamins C and K. They’re also rich in glucosinalates, compounds that may help lower inflammation and potentially fight cancer. Says Michelle Loy, RDN: “I eat fermented foods every day because they contain probiotics, which promote digestive health and may have additional benefits like weight management and mental health.” Make sure you know the ingredients that nutritionists never cook with.
You may know that dried plums are great for keeping you regular, but nutritionists know there’s more to prunes. Dietitian Kara Golis says, “I eat a few prunes every morning. The potassium and magnesium in prunes support bone health, according to a 2017 study in the journal Nutrients. And unlike many dried fruits, prunes have a relatively low glycemic index, meaning that they are digested and absorbed slowly by the body.” Try them as a healthier way to sweeten up your cereal, baked goods, and smoothies.
Extra virgin olive oil
This key ingredient in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet is a daily addition to registered dietitians’ meals. Elena Paravantes Hargitt, RDN, is one of them. “Apart from being a good source of monounsaturated fats, extra virgin olive oil contains numerous polyphenols and is associated with the prevention of several chronic diseases. It also increases the absorption of certain nutrients.” Make sure you know these 37 secrets nutritionists won’t tell you for free.
Drinking milk isn’t just for kids. Jessica Ivey, RDN, a dietitian in Birmingham, AL, adds skim milk to her diet every day. “Adequate calcium intake is essential to ensure that my peak bone mass is as high as possible. Skim milk provides bone-building calcium and vitamin D as well as protein but with zero grams of saturated fat,” she says.
We all need some sweetness in our lives, and nutritionists sure do love their dark chocolate. Gram for gram, cocoa is one of the highest food sources of antioxidants. Plus, research suggests that having an ounce of dark chocolate four times a week may help reduce blood pressure and improve blood vessel function. Now, find out the 50 foods nutritionists never eat so you shouldn’t either.
- Kristie LeBeau, RDN, dietitian, Redlands, CA.
- Kate Chury, RD.
- Melissa Groves, RDN, Avocado Grove Nutrition, Portsmouth, NH.
- Joan Salge Blake, RDN, clinical associate professor, Boston University.
- Jess Cording, RDN, dietitian, New York City.
- Sharon Palmer, RD, dietitian, Duarte, CA.
- Jessica Spiro, RD, dietitian, San Diego.
- Shannon A. Garcia, RD, dietitian, San Antonio, TX.
- Sarah Pflugradt, RDN, adjunct faculty, Southwest Illinois College, Belleville, IL.
- Dianna Dillon, RDN, dietitian, Kansas City, MO.
- Elena Paravantes Hargitt, RDN, founder, Olive Tomato.
- Jessica Ivey, RDN, dietitian in Birmingham, AL.
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Brazil Nuts: An Effective Way to Improve Selenium Status.”
- Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports: “Cocoa Consumption, Cocoa Flavonoids, and Effects on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: An Evidence-Based Review.”
- Current Pharmacology Reports: “Dietary Glucosinolates Sulforaphane, Phenethyl Isothiocyanate, Indole-3-Carbinol/3,3′-Diindolylmethane: Anti-Oxidative Stress/Inflammation, Nrf2, Epigenetics/Epigenomics and In Vivo Cancer Chemopreventive Efficacy.”
- European Journal of Nutrition: “Dietary Blueberry Improves Cognition Among Older Adults in a Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Trial.”
- Foods: “Common Beans and Their Non-Digestible Fraction: Cancer Inhibitory Activity—An Overview.”
- Journal of Applied Microbiology: “Probiotics and Their Fermented Food Products Are Beneficial for Health.”
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: “Nutritional and Therapeutic Perspectives of Chia (Salvia hispanica L.): A Review.”
- Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry: “Dietary Niacin and the Risk of Incident Alzheimer’s Disease and of Cognitive Decline.”
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: “Flavonoid-Rich Dark Chocolate Improves Endothelial Function and Increases Plasma Epicatechin Concentrations in Healthy Adults.”
- National Institutes of Health: “Choline.”
- Neurology: “Nutrients and Bioactives in Green Leafy Vegetables and Cognitive Decline: Prospective Study.”
- Nutrients: “Dried Plums, Prunes and Bone Health: A Comprehensive Review.”
- Nutrition Journal: “Tree Nut Consumption Is Associated With Better Adiposity Measures and Cardiovascular and Metabolic Syndrome Health Risk Factors in U.S. Adults: NHANES 2005-2010.”