Quick and Easy Minimal Cook Healthy Meal Ideas, Grocery List and Simple Recipes


Healthy food ingredients to keep in the pantry for weeknight cooking

With some key healthy ingredients on hand, its easy to put together meals when you get home from work. These ideas are so easy, even a busy bachelor can do it! I created these meal ideas along with grocery lists and a few recipes for a male client who doesn’t know how to cook and was very intimidated with the thought of putting together healthy meals. He loves it and not eating out every night or relying on frozen pizza is helping him reach his health goals.

Below are idea combinations, but feel free to mix and match. Scroll down and I give you a grocery list, a Trader Joe’s Grocery list, a list of my favorite whole grain cereals, best-tasting low-cal salad dressing and a few simple recipes.

In addition here are some more ideas to help you make quick and healthy meals.

  • Bowls: grain, meat and veggies
  • Casseroles, these can be made ahead and leftovers reheated
  • Soups: these can be made ahead and leftovers reheated
  • Make ahead salads
  • Keep cooked protein on hand (Costco chicken, cut and frozen), cooked frozen shrimp, grill chicken to use later in the week
  • Breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs + Veg; pancakes
  • Quesadillas: easy to have items on hand to make
  • Crockpot or instapot: you can even do freezer to crockpot meals. Do a google search.
  • Meal prep ahead: Spend a couple hours a couple times a week to prepare soups, salads, vegetables, casseroles, meat for later in the week.
  • Pantry staples list: having a list makes shopping easier.
  • Shopping lists: have master lists for frequently shopped stores
  • Shopping area in kitchen: have a designated area with pen, paper, coupons and store sale flyers
  • Favorite recipe cookbook: put all the healthy recipes you have tried and like in one notebook.
  • Section of easy peasy meals, no recipe ideas in you family favorite cookbook notebook
  • Create a file with “to try” recipes
  • Enlist help: kids can help! Here is a list of age appropriate tasks for kids in the kitchen.  This will help you teach your kid how to cook by age.

Easy Meal Ideas

Grain Bowls: lots of recipes online!

Rotisserie Chicken + Salad or Cooked Vegetables (Broccoli, Greens, Asparagus, Zucchini) + Cooked Whole Grains

Chicken Caesar Salad + 2 Tbs reduced fat Caesar Dressing + 2 Tbs Parmesan

Canned Turkey Chili + Brown Rice + Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar + Reduced Fat Sour Cream

Chicken Saute + Trader Joe’s Masala Sauce + Cooked Whole Grains

Tuscany Chicken – see recipe

Sandwich + Raw Vegetables + 2 Tbs Low-fat Ranch

Shrimp Sauté or Fish (Trader Joe’s frozen) or Chicken + Cooked Vegetables (Broccoli, Greens, Asparagus, Zucchini) + Cooked Whole Grains

Salad greens + tomato + lean meat or fish or canned albacore tuna + 2 Tbs low-fat dressing + 2 Tbs pumpkin seeds

2 eggs + 1 egg white Scrambled Eggs + Mushrooms or other veggie + 2 Tbs reduced fat cheese + 1 slice Dave’s Killer Bread + 1 tsp Brummel and Brown

Trader Joe’s Quinoa Melange + Cooked Vegetables (Broccoli, Greens, Asparagus, Zucchini) or Salad

Trader Joe’s Vegetable Lasagna + Salad OR Cooked Vegetables

Oatmeal + Skim Milk + 2 Tbs Walnuts + 1 cup Fruit

Scrambled Eggs or omelet, Dave’s Toast, Fruit

Wrap with a spread of light cream cheese, leftover meat or lunchmeat and veggies

Red sauce and pasta and meat and steamed green beans

Cheese Quesadillas with Black beans and bell pepper, salsa and reduced fat sour cream

Chili with reduced fat cheese and salsa and reduced fat sour cream

Taco Bowls: Brown rice, black beans or chili, tomatoes, chopped spinach, cheese, sour cream, salsa

Oven baked salmon with roasted vegetables (butternut squash, broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower)

Wrap using tortilla, light cream cheese, reduced fat may, mustard, pesto, sliced tomato, greens, leftover chicken, or natural lunchmeat

Sandwich with Dave’s Bread, reduced fat mayo, lunch meat and veggies (spinach, tomatoes, olives, onion)

BBQ Chicken Breasts and roasted cauliflower

Baked Potato with Beans and Cheese + Salad OR Cooked Vegetable OR Fruit

Trader Joe’s Masala Sauce + Trader Joe’s Organic Firm Tofu + Black Beans served on brown rice

Trader Joe’s Masala Sauce + Trader Joe’s Organic Firm Tofu + Chopped Fresh Spinach served with steamed green beans

Cottage cheese stuffed baked potatoes. Scoop out the inside of a baked potato, and mix those tater guts with one cup of cottage cheese

Salads, See Salad Inspiration Ideas

Cold Cereal or Oatmeal, Milk and Frozen organic blueberries or cherries + flaxseed meal

Rotisserie chicken from the deli + Salad or Cooked Vegetables Or Fruit

Shrimp sautéed in olive oil and garlic + Roasted Veggies or Salad + Healthy Harvest Pasta or Brown Rice

Peanut Butter Sandwiches on Dave’s Bread or Whole Wheat Tortilla + Skim Milk + Fruit

Also consider Trader Joe’s grocery list items for meal ideas. (Frozen entrees, grains sides dishes and frozen meats)

Grocery List of Foods to Keep in Your Pantry
2% Reduced Fat Cheddar Shredded
Any ingredients you need to make the salads below.
Black Beans
Bran Flakes, TOTAL, Frosted Mini-Wheats original Kellogg’s, Kashi Autumn Wheat, Kashi GoLean Crisp! Multigrain Cluster Cereal, Kashi’s Heart to Heart
Brown Rice
Brummel and Brown Spread for toast
Canned Albacore Tuna packed in water
Canned tomatoes
Canned Mushrooms
Canned TURKEY Chili, Fat-Free Chili with Beans, canned
Chicken Breasts
Cottage Cheese, 2%
Dave’s Killer Bread 21
Deli Turkey or Chicken no preservatives, without nitrate or nitrite, also called natural. Boars Head a good brand.
Flaxseed Meal
Frozen organic blueberries or cherries
Fruit (apple, berries, banana, orange)
Healthy Harvest Pasta
Nonfat or Skim Milk
Olive Oil, extra virgin
Parmesan, grated
Peanut Butter
Red Sauce
Reduced Fat Cream Cheese
Reduced fat mayo
Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Reduced Fat Sour Cream
Rotisserie Chicken from the deli
Salad Dressing, see list of choices
Shrimp (fresh or bagged frozen)
Vegetables Broccoli, Cauliflower, Greens, Asparagus, Zucchini, Tomato, Onion, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Spinach, Salad Greens, Salad Toppings, Green Beans, Russet Potatoes, Bell Pepper, Butternut Squash
Walnuts, chopped
Whole Oats
Whole Wheat Tortillas, Mission, Burrito size
Also See Trader Joe’s Grocery List

Trader Joe’s List

Organic Extra Firm Tofu

Pumpkin seeds

Masala Sauce

Vegetables (Precut butternut squash, spinach, precut cauliflower, green beans, tomatoes, greens, Healthy 8 tub of chopped vegetables, avocadoes)

10 minute farro or barley


Pumpkin seeds

Deli turkey or chicken, no preservatives

Frozen fish


Roasted Broccoli    You can use this method for cauliflower, butternut squash, or carrots. Time to cook will be different.
• 1 pound broccoli, rinsed and trimmed and dried
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or sharp reduced fat Cheddar, optional
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the broccoli florets into bite size pieces. Cut the stalk into 1/8-inch thick, round slices. Place the broccoli into a mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper and set aside.
Put broccoli on a foil lined baking sheet and place in the oven and roast just until the broccoli is tender, 8 to 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven, toss in the cheese and serve immediately.

Steamed Green Beans
Prepare 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of fresh green beans by snapping them or cutting them to approximately 1 inch in length and rinsing them.
Place 1 inch salted water in a large pot. Add green beans, cover, and bring to a boil. Cook until green beans are tender to the bite about 15-20 minutes (depending on how crisp you like your cooked green beans). Drain into a colander.

Baked Potato with Beans and Cheese
Wash and poke a couple holes in a baker (russet) potato. Microwave until soft. Cut in half and top with 3/4 cup canned, drained black beans or chili. Top with 3 Tbs 2% reduced fat sharp cheddar, put back in the microwave to heat the beans and melt the cheese. Top with salsa.

Tuscany Chicken
Brown 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into cubes and 1 small chopped onion, in an oiled skillet over medium. 1 can Italian style stewed tomatoes. Cover and simmer 5-7 minutes. Serve over cooked whole grains.

Vegetable Omelet
-5 eggs, remove 3 yolks
-2 tablespoons water
-1/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar
-Sautéed veggies: Choose from a combination of cooked asparagus, cooked broccoli, cooked onions or red pepper fresh mushrooms, cooked tomatoes, spinach
In a bowl, separate the eggs discarding 3 of the yolks. Beat eggs, water, salt, and pepper until frothy.
In a small sauté pan, cook vegetables.
Wipe oil onto the bottom of a large nonstick skillet. Pour in eggs and cook covered, over medium heat, 6 to 7 minutes until bottom is lightly browned and top is set. Spoon hot sautéed veggies over half the omelet, and then gently slide it out of skillet onto platter, folding the half without filling over bottom half. Sprinkle top with cheese.

Black Bean Wrap
On 1 8-inch whole-wheat tortilla, mash ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans with a fork. Sprinkle with a pinch of cumin, a pinch of paprika, and 1 tbsp. cheddar cheese. Roll up and microwave for 30 seconds. Serve with 2 tbsp. salsa.

Honey Soy Salmon
Preheat the broiler and combine ½ tbsp. honey with ½ tsp. soy sauce. Season 1 5-oz. salmon filet with salt and pepper and broil for five minutes. Drizzle with honey-soy sauce and broil an additional 2-5 minutes.

Salad Inspiration

Fall Salad
Chopped Pecans, Chopped Apple, Feta Cheese Crumbles, Pomegranate Seeds, on a bed of fresh greens served with a low-fat Vinaigrette Salad Dressing.

Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad
Grilled Chicken Breast, Bbq Sauce, Chopped Romaine Lettuce, Black Beans, Cubed Jicama, Pumpkin Seeds Corn, Diced Tomatoes and Red Onion. Serve With Lowfat Or Reduced Fat Ranch Dressing or Cilantro Dressing.

Taco Salad
Grilled Chicken, Shrimp or Flank Steak, Chopped Romaine Lettuce, Sliced Black Olives, Black Beans, Red Bell Pepper, Chopped Fresh Cilantro, Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Cubed Jicama, Corn, Pumpkin seeds, Diced Tomatoes and Red or Green Onion and Tortilla Chip Strips. Serve With Lowfat Or Reduced Fat Ranch Dressing mixed with some Chipotle in Adobe or Cilantro Dressing.

Shrimp, Berry and Goat Cheese Salad
Warm Sautéed Shrimp on a Mound Of Crisp Mixed Greens, Sliced Strawberries, Raspberries And Blueberry With A Crumble Of Goat Cheese.

Chicken Fajita Salad
Sautéed Chicken Breast, Sautéed Onions, Garlic And Red Pepper Strips Served Atop A Generous Mound Of Crisp Mixed Greens, Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar, Black Olives, Salsa, Reduced Fat Or Fat Free Sour Cream And Avocado Cubes.

Garden Salad
Crisp Mixed Greens (Your Choice Of Spinach, Romaine, Red Leaf) Carrots, Red Cabbage, Tomato, Cucumber And Thinly Sliced Red Onions. Add Cooked Shrimp, Chicken Or Salmon. Serve With A Reduced Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Caesar Salad
Fresh Crisp Chopped Romaine Lettuce Tossed With Reduced Fat Caesar Dressing And Shredded Parmesan Cheese. Top with Grilled Chicken, Shrimp Or Salmon.

Harvest Salad
Grilled Chicken Breast, Berries (Blueberry, Blackberry, Raspberry Or Strawberry), Low Fat Feta Crumbles, Toasted Chopped Walnuts Served Atop A Generous Mound Of Mixed Greens. Serve With A Reduced Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette Or Raspberry Vinaigrette.

Cobb Salad
Crisp Mixed Greens, Small Cooked Shrimp Or Chopped Cooked Chicken, Chopped Hard Cooked Egg, Avocado, Tomatoes, Black Olive Slices And Chopped Red Onion, Chives Or Green Onion, A Smidge Of Crumbled Roquefort Or Blue Cheese With A Dijon Red Wine Vinaigrette.

Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges
Spinach, Sliced Mushrooms, Mandarin Oranges, Toasted slivered almond, red onion rings tossed with a sweet vinaigrette.

Here are my favorite bottle salad dressings.
 Annie’s Goddess Light
 Bernstein’s Cheese Fantastico
 Bolthouse Farms Reduced fat Blue Cheese
 Girard’s Light Caesar
 Girard’s Light Champagne
 Hidden Valley Ranch Light
 Hidden Valley Ranch Light
 Ken’s Steakhouse Lite Raspberry
 Lite Northern Italian w/ Basil & Romano
 Newman’s Own Lighten Up! Light Balsamic Vinaigrette
 Newman’s Own Lighten Up! Lowfat Sesame Ginger
 Oppa Caesar (refrigerated)
 Trader Joe’s Reduced Fat Cilantro Salad Dressing
 Wishbone Just 2 Good! Ranch, French or Blue Cheese
 Wishbone Raspberry Hazelnut Vinaigrette
 Wishbone Red Wine
 Wishbone Taste of Life Garden Italian or Honey; Catalina

Healthy Whole Grain Cereals
 Nature’s Path Optimum 1 cup has 190 calories, 10 whopping grams of fiber, half the sodium as Wheaties, 16 grams sugar, 200 mg sodium.
 A kid friendly cereal is Barbara’s Puffins which has flavors from cinnamon to peanut butter, and is rich in whole-grains and fiber, low in salt and added sugar and free of artificial flavor and color enhancers.
 Uncle Sam has 237 calories, 11 grams of fiber, 6 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar for a large 55 g serving.
 Kashi’s Heart to Heart in a ¾ cup has 110 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 5 grams sugar, and only 90 mg sodium.
 Kashi GoLean Crisp! Multigrain Cluster Cereal
 Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice is gluten free (for those who have celiac disease), 110 calories, half a gram of fat and 1 gram of sugar for a 30 gram serving.
 Bob’s Red Mill Meusli is gluten free (for those who have celiac disease), 110 calories, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar in a 29 gram serving.
 Kashi Autumn Wheat has 180 calories, 1 gram of fat, 6 grams of fiber and 7 grams of sugar for 29 biscuits.
 Kashi Simply Maize corn cereal contains 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of fiber and 6 grams of sugar for ¾ cup.
 Whole Grain TOTAL contains only 97 calories, 1g of fat and 5g of sugars per 30g serving.
 Frosted Mini-Wheats original Kellogg’s. A 30g serving of the original kind contains only 102 calories, less than 1g of fat, 3g of fiber, 6g of sugar, and 3mg of sodium.
 Cheerios. A 30g serving of plain Cheerios contains 111 calories, 2g of fat, 4g of fiber, and 2g of sugar. The only snag is that they are slightly high in sodium with 213mg of sodium.
 Post Grape-Nuts Flakes. A 30g serving of flakes has 106 calories, 1g of fat, 3g of fiber, 5g of sugar, and 140mg of sodium.
 Kellogg’s Complete Wheat Bran Flakes have 92 calories, 6 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar in a 29 gram serving.

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Worst and Best Pesticide Laden Fruits and Vegetables

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released its list of the most pesticide-contaminated produce called the Dirty Dozen.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

Pesticides have been associated with developmental problems in kids, and cause cancer or disrupt the endocrine system, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Consider purchasing organic varieties of these fruits and veggies, and be sure to pick plenty of produce from the Clean 15 list .

Dirty Dozen

  1. Apple
  2. Strawberry
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Bell Pepper
  8. Nectarine (imported)
  9. Cucumber
  10. Cherry Tomato
  11. Snap Peas (imported)
  12. Potatoes

Clean 15

  1. Avocado
  2. Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet pea (frozen)
  6. Onion
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mango
  9. Papaya
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet potato


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Best Foods To Put In Your Shopping Cart

Most supermarkets stock more than 50,000 items, however every time we shop, we toss same 25 foods into our cart. Which isn’t such a bad thing, as long as you’re taking home the right foods–ones that will keep you healthy.

Why would you even want to consider making the effort to include healthy food in your diet?

Weight loss, increased energy, to be a role model for your children? Yes, and because foods rich in certain nutrients can reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and prevent premature aging!

Aging, and diseases that occur more frequently with advancing age, are caused by structural damage to cells.

One cause of this damage is from free radicals, which are chemical compounds found in the environment and also generated by normal chemical reactions in the body.

Free radicals are thought to greatly increase the severity of—or perhaps even cause—such life-shortening diseases as diabetes mellitus, strokes, and heart attacks.

Increasing human life span may depend on our ability to prevent free radical damage.

Antioxidants are chemical compounds that play a role in preventing and possibly reversing cell damage in the aging process. Antioxidants are found in some foods.

I’ve created a list of foods that will help you build your diet around the most powerful, disease-fighting, nutrient-dense, muscle-growing “super foods”.

So add the following foods to your must-buy grocery list. Use my tips and recipes to easily get them into your diet and onto your menu. You will find recipes on my website.

Let’s get specific about what the most important foods are that everyone should include in their diet for maximum health.

Turkey Breast
Buy it skinless and you get seven grams of protein per ounce. Turkey is high in B vitamins, zinc, and the cancer fighter selenium. There are little or no saturated fats. Plus, it’s one of the most versatile cuts of meat around, so you can easily eat it throughout the week and never have the same thing twice. Cook a turkey breast in a crockpot and you have dinner and enough left over for turkey sandwiches the next day.

Olive Oil
Olive oil is rich in good monounsaturated fat, making it an ideal food for heart health.

Olive oil also has potent anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it can help reduce pain and swelling just like a dose of ibuprofen.

Cook with olive oil and use it as a dressing for your salad.

Chances are you may not be familiar with this exotic whole grain grown in the Andes mountains. But you should be. It has a light, mild flavor-making it ideal for those who dislike other whole grains. Even better, it’s higher in protein than any other grain around, and packs a hefty dose of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Quinoa is also a great source of fiber and B vitamins.

Black Beans
Beans can help you feel energized and fuller longer than almost anything else you can eat. Black beans have more fiber per serving than any other member of the legume family. And, they’re stuffed with a highly complex form of carbohydrate that can take your body a long while to convert into energy. Eat 2 servings per week

Like meat, they’re also packed with protein. But unlike meat, they’ve got no saturated fats. Black beans also contain antioxidants, and researchers theorize that this fiber-folate-antioxidant trio is why a daily serving of beans appears to lower cholesterol levels and heart-disease risk.

Add to your diet: For a quick, hearty soup, open a can of black beans and pour into chicken or vegetable stock along with frozen mixed veggies and your favorite seasonings. Mash beans with salsa for an instant dip for cut veggies, or spread onto a whole-wheat tortilla for a great recovery meal. Add beans to cooked pasta or rice for extra fiber and protein.

Green Tea
From cancer prevention to weight loss to potentially slowing the development of Alzheimer’s, green tea has been shown to help fight almost every major medical ill. Hot or cold, there’s almost nothing better you can drink.

An egg a day is OK. Here’s why: Egg protein is the most complete food protein short of human breast milk, which means the protein in eggs contains all the crucial amino acids your hard-working muscles need to promote recovery. In addition to boasting some of the highest naturally available doses around of a vitamin called choline, which is thought to help enhance memory. They’re the gold standard in terms of providing all the right nutrients for muscle growth.

Eat just one of these nutritional powerhouses and you’ll also get about 30 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin K, which is vital for healthy bones. And eggs contain and leutin, a pigment needed for healthy eyes. Don’t worry too much about the cholesterol: Studies have shown that egg eaters have a lower risk for heart disease than those who avoid eggs.

Add to your diet: Whether boiled, scrambled, poached, or fried (in a nonstick skillet to cut down on the need for additional fats), eggs are great anytime. Use them as the base for skillet meals such as frittatas. Or include them in sandwiches, burritos, or wraps as you would meat fillers.

There are components in dairy that help turn on your body’s fat-burning system and slow down the storage of fat. And although other forms of calcium supplements are great, this is one case in which the real thing works the best.

You know you need to be drinking more water, and for good reason. Water flushes toxins from your system, regulates body temp, acts as an insulator for joints, prevents kidney stones, and supplies the body with other crucial minerals. Without water, none of the other super-foods would matter.

Getting in all that water each day seem like a drag? Try making a sugar-free lemonade or buy a pack of calorie-free flavorings to add to your water bottle at work.

Sweet Potatoes
A 100-calorie sweet potato supplies over 250 percent of the DV for vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, the powerful antioxidant. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, E, potassium, iron, manganese and copper. Together, these nutrients work together to protect your body against cellular damage of all types. They’re also one of the best foods for muscle recovery after a tough workout.

Add to your diet: And there are more ways to eat them than just baked, boiled, or topped with marshmallows. Try stirring cooked, diced sweet potato into chili, soups or your favorite potato-salad recipe. You can also grate them into hamburgers or meatloaf, or use them to make your own oven-baked fries. Sweet potatoes can be baked, boiled, or micro waved. You can fill them with bean chili, low-fat cheese, and your favorite toppings. Baked as wedges or disks, sweet potatoes make delicious oven fries.

Whole-Grain Cereal with Protein 250 calories a serving
Look for whole-grain cereals that offer at least five grams of fiber and at least eight grams of protein. For example, one cup of Kashi GoLean cereal, which is made from seven different whole grains, including triticale, rye, and buckwheat, fills you up with a hefty 10 grams of fiber (that’s 40 percent of the DV) and is loaded with heart-healthy phytonutrients. It also contains 13 grams of protein per serving. If you pour on a cup of milk or soymilk, you’ll get 30 to 40 percent of your protein needs as a runner in one bowl. Other high-protein/high-fiber cereals include Nature’s Path Optimum Rebound and Back to Nature Flax & Fiber Crunch.

Of course whole-grain cereal is excellent for breakfast–a meal you don’t want to skip since research indicates that those who eat breakfast are healthier, trimmer, and can manage their weight better than nonbreakfast eaters. Cereal also makes a great postrun recovery meal with its mix of carbohydrates and protein. Or you can sprinkle whole-grain cereal on top of your yogurt, use it to add crunch to casseroles, or tote it along in a zip bag.

Soy is a “perfect food.” It has the protein of meat, the fiber of a whole grain, and the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals of the best vegetables and fruits. If you don’t like tofu and soy milk-there are easy ways to boost your soy intake. Soy nuts and edamame.

It’s not only high in muscle-building amino acids, it’s also a powerhouse of iron and zinc, which aid circulatory health. In fact, beef is so nutrient-dense that a three-ounce serving supplies more than 10% of your recommended daily intake of a number of nutrients, including protein, B6 and B12, selenium, phosphorus, niacin, and riboflavin. Worried about the fat? According to USDA data, today’s beef is up to 20% leaner than it was a decade ago. In fact, 19 cuts of beef meet government guidelines as being a lean meat. To keep the meat you’re buying lean as well as tender and flavorful, opt for cuts with the words round or top in the name-things like eye round roast, top round, or top sirloin steak.

Whole-Wheat Bread
Even if you’re cutting carbs, there’s still a place for complex whole grains in your diet. They leave you feeling fuller longer, and they provide the longest possible supply of sustained energy. Just watch out when you’re buying something that claims to be whole grain. It may only look brown because it’s colored with molasses. Rather than buying based on color, check the ingredient list. The only true whole-grain products are those that contain 100% whole wheat or whole grain listed as the first ingredient on the packaging.

One study showed that women who eat whole-grain bread weigh less than those who eat refined white bread and other grains. Whole-grain eaters also have a 38 percent lower risk of suffering from metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by belly fat, low levels of the good cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels. All this raises the risk for heart disease and cancer.

Add to your diet: Bread is versatile, portable, and ready to eat right out of the wrapper. Spread with peanut butter or stuff with your favorite sandwich fillings and plenty of sliced veggies for a one-handed recovery meal. Coat with a beaten egg for French toast, or use as layers or crumbled in a casserole.

High in protein, fiber, almonds are great for your heart, digestive system, and skin.

How to add to your diet: keep a bag of dry-roasted or lightly seasoned almonds in your desk drawer at work-and snack on a handful. You can also use it in place of peanut butter. Almond butter is perfect spread over whole-grain toast or on a whole-wheat tortilla, topped with dried fruit, and rolled up. Add almonds and other nuts to salads or pasta dishes, use as a topping for casseroles, or throw them into your bowl of hot cereal for extra crunch. Combine with chopped dried fruit, soy nuts, and chocolate bits for a healthy and delicious trail mix.

Besides being a good source of protein and calcium (one cup provides 13 grams of protein and 40 percent of the DV for calcium), low-fat yogurt with live cultures provides the healthy bacteria your digestive tract needs to function optimally. Just look for the live-culture symbol on the yogurt carton.

The active cultures boost the number of germ-fighting bacteria along your intestinal walls. That helps keep you from getting sick. Studies show that people who eat yogurt most often are less likely to catch a cold than people who rarely eat the stuff. Try to buy yogurt that is less than a week old to ensure you’re getting the most benefit from the active cultures.

Like milk, yogurt contains calcium that not only boosts fat-burning but also helps you feel satiated, making it an ideal food for weight loss.

Add to your diet: Low-fat yogurt is great topped with fruit, granola, or nuts, or used as a base for smoothies. Plain yogurt can be mixed with diced cucumber and herbs like dill and spread over grilled tofu, chicken, fish, and other meats. Yogurt can also double as a salad dressing with vinegar and herbs. Or mix it with fresh salsa to stand in as a dip for veggies and baked chips.

One serving of these leafy greens is loaded with fiber, calcium, and virtually your entire day’s recommended dosage of beta carotene, a nutrient vital for immune-system health and good vision. Spinach offers a blend of phytonutrients that research suggests may fend off age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. These phytonutrients also act as antioxidants, warding off muscle damage brought on by tough workouts.

How to add to your diet: If you can’t stand spinach plain, try dropping it into pasta dishes and canned soup. Toss a spinach salad with tomato, cucumber, scallions, and an olive oil-based dressing (the fat from the oil helps your body absorb the phytonutrients). You can also stuff spinach in your sandwiches, wraps, burritos, and tacos. Or place spinach in a heated skillet, toss lightly until wilted, and use as a bed for grilled salmon, chicken, or lean meat.

This green should be at the top of your list when it comes to vegetables. It’s rich with a healthy supply of iron, calcium, fiber, and vitamin C, meaning it’s good for the circulatory system, bones, and fighting colds. As far as vegetables go, this is the one I try hardest to get more people to eat.

Brocco-phobic? Try it on the sly: Slip it into stir-fries, onto pizza, or use raw chunks as a vehicle for your favorite low-fat dip.

Yes, it’s true that tomatoes used to be called “love apples” and have a reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac. But that lore has nothing to do with why I picked the tomato as the best food for sexual health. Rather, tomatoes win their high ranking because of a single nutrient: lycopene.

This powerful antioxidant, which comes from the pigment that gives tomatoes their red color, may actually help fight off a number of diseases and ailments-most important for men, prostate cancer. Numerous studies show that men who have the most tomatoes and tomato-based products in their diet are less likely to develop prostate problems than men who rarely eat the stuff. Tomatoes are also that rare food that’s more nutritious when cooked than when eaten raw. Lycopene becomes more bio-available to the body after it’s been heated. You can start off the day with a glass of tomato juice and have a tomato-based sauce a couple of times a week.

When it comes to eating breakfast in the morning, there’s nothing better than a bowl of oatmeal to spike your energy levels and provide you with an hours-long supply of fuel. Oatmeal is also filled with stress-fighting and immunity-boosting zinc.

If that weren’t enough to convince you to pop a bowl in the microwave, keep in mind that oatmeal can also help promote weight loss and lower your risk of heart disease. Oatmeal is filled with high levels of soluble fiber that protect your heart and arteries by trapping and expelling cholesterol, dropping levels by up to 30 points or more in some cases.

The best oatmeal may not be the most convenient, however. Those flavored, single-serving packs are often filled with added sugar-and therefore excess calories. Instead, stick with the big tub of oatmeal and add your own fruit and calorie-free sweeteners, if you need them.

Of all the fruit you can eat, blueberries may be the absolute best. Whether you’re getting them raw, tossed into cereal, mixed in fruit salad or a smoothie, blueberries pack more fiber, vitamins, and minerals per ounce than any other fruit in the produce aisle. Chief among those nutrients are free-radical-fighting antioxidants.

Need another reason to eat them? How about your memory? Those same antioxidants that fight disease are also effective in helping keep connections between cells in your brain and nervous system healthy, ensuring clearer, quicker thinking and the best memory possible.

The colorful compounds that make blueberries blue, blackberries deep purple, and raspberries a rich shade of red are called anthocyanins–a powerful group of antioxidants that may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease and some cancers.

Add to your diet: Frozen berries are just as nutritious as fresh ones, but they keep far longer (up to nine months in the freezer), making it easier to always have them ready to eat. Frozen berries make a great base for a smoothie and there’s no need to thaw them. Once thawed, eat them straight up or add to some vanilla yogurt with chopped nuts. Or liven up your hot or cold cereal with a big handful. You can also bake berries with a nutty topping of oatmeal, honey, and chopped almonds for a sweet treat after a long weekend run.

Nutrition-wise, salmon is the king of fish. Besides being an excellent source of high-quality protein (you get about 30 grams in a four-ounce serving), salmon is one of the best food sources of omega-3 fats.

These fatty acids are thought to slow memory loss as you age and boost heart health by regulating heart rhythms and keeping arteries and veins supple and free of blockages.

While saturated fats lead to obesity, the polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish appear to correct and prevent obesity, according to a study published in Clinical Science.

These essential fats help balance the body’s inflammation response, a bodily function that when disturbed appears to be linked to many diseases including asthma. If you’ve been limiting seafood due to possible mercury or PCB contamination, simply aim for a variety of farm-raised and wild salmon for maximum health benefits.

Add to your diet: Bake, grill, or poach salmon with fresh herbs and citrus zest. Gauge cooking time by allotting 10 minutes for every inch of fish (steaks or fillets). Salmon should flake when done. Precooked (leftover) or canned salmon is great in salads, tossed into pasta, stirred into soups, or on top of pizza. Fresh fish keeps one to two days in the fridge, or you can freeze it in a tightly sealed container for about four to five months.

Eat enough oranges and you may experience less muscle soreness after hard workouts. Why? Oranges supply over 100 percent of the DV for the antioxidant vitamin C, and a recent study from the University of North Carolina Greensboro showed that taking vitamin C supplements for two weeks prior to challenging arm exercises helped alleviate muscle soreness. This fruit’s antioxidant powers also come from the compound herperidin found in the thin orange-colored layer of the fruit’s skin (the zest). Herperidin has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and high blood pressure as well.

Add to your diet: Add orange sections to fruit and green salads, or use the orange juice and pulp for sauces to top chicken, pork, or fish. And to benefit from the antioxidant herperidin, use the orange zest in baking and cooking.

Frozen Stir-fry Vegetables
Research shows that eating a combination of antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin C, may lessen muscle soreness after hard interval workouts by reducing the inflammation caused by free-radical damage. Most ready-to-use stir-fry veggie combos offer a potent mix of antioxidants by including red and yellow peppers, onions, bok choy, and soy beans. And frozen vegetable mixes save lots of prepping time but still provide the same nutrition as their fresh counterparts.

Add to your diet: Dump the frozen vegetables right into a hot wok or skillet, add tofu, seafood, or meat, your favorite stir-fry sauce, and serve over brown rice. Or throw them into pasta water during the last few minutes of cooking, drain, and toss with a touch of olive oil. You can also mix the frozen veggies right into soups or stews at the end of cooking, or thaw them and add to casseroles. Vegetables store well in the freezer for about four months, so make sure to date your bags.

Whole-grain Pasta
Pasta has long been an athlete’s best friend because it contains easily digestible carbs that help you restock spent energy stores. Whole-grain versions are a must over refined pastas because they contain more fiber to fill you up, additional B vitamins that are crucial to energy metabolism, and disease-fighting compounds such as lignans. And even better, pastas such as Barilla Plus offer whole-grain goodness along with heart-healthy omega-3 fats from ground flaxseed and added protein from a special formula of ground lentils, multigrains, and egg whites to help with muscle repair and recovery.

Add to your diet: Pasta makes a complete one-pot meal when tossed with veggies, lean meat, seafood, or tofu. Or combine pasta with a light sauce, a bit of your favorite cheese, and turn it into a satisfying casserole.

People who workout need more protein than nonexercisers to help rebuild muscles and promote recovery after tough workouts. And just one four-ounce serving of chicken can supply about half an athlete’s daily protein needs.

Add to your diet: Chicken’s versatility makes it perfect for runners with little time to cook. You can bake, broil, grill, or poach chicken in broth. Leftover chicken works well on top of salads, mixed into pasta, or stuffed into sandwiches and burritos.

Red Bell Peppers

Red bell peppers supply nearly 20% of your daily need for alpha-tocopherol vitamin E. This potent antioxidant heads off cell damage by busting free radicals that roam throughout your bloodstream.

Red bell peppers have more immune-boosting vitamin C than oranges and almost twice as much as their green cousins.

The beta-carotene in red peppers provides the raw material your body needs to manufacture vitamin A. Raw peppers are good, but cooked ones are an even better source, since heat makes beta-carotene more available to your body.

A compound called lycopene in red peppers is one of the best things you can eat to lower your chances of developing prostate cancer.

Stick it on the grill
Cut off the top of the pepper (the stem side), and scoop out the seeds. Slice peppers lengthwise into strips, and place on the grill over an open flame until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Or broil whole peppers on a baking sheet in the oven, about 15 minutes each side. When cool enough to handle, peel off the charred skin, slice the pepper, and discard the seeds. Use the cooked pepper strips in salads or on sandwiches, or eat them plain as a side dish.

Make a kebab
Cut 1 lb of 1-inch-thick boneless beef top sirloin steak into 1 1z2-inch pieces. Toss meat with a combination of 1 tsp each of sweet paprika and salt, and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Thread beef pieces onto four 12-inch metal skewers, alternating with 1-inch pieces of red bell pepper. Grill kebabs; serve with wild rice and green salad.

Blend up a sauce
Puree prepared or home-cooked red peppers in a blender or food processor to use as a sauce over cooked meat. Add the puree to canned soups to boost their nutritional content and flavor-or mix with an equal amount of sour cream, and add salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste for a quick and healthy dip.

Stuff it
Steam raw bell peppers for five minutes, then cut them open, remove the seeds, and fill them with a combination of cooked ground beef and quick-cooking brown rice. Bake at 350 degrees until hot.

Eat it raw
Throw slices of raw pepper on burgers and sandwiches, or into any cooked or cold pasta dish. (Store-bought, jarred roasted red peppers work great in these settings as well.) Or just snack on raw pepper strips by the handful. They taste great dipped into almost anything you’d eat with a potato chip or tortilla chip.



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