Beets or asparagus? 10 best foods for your waist

Posted on May 15, 2009 in Health & Wellness

Health magazine on the items to swap out and swap in your shopping cart

updated 4:59 p.m. ET, Wed., Feb. 18, 2009
Smart shoppers often get tripped up by seemingly healthy foods that are lacking in vitamins and nutrients, or are relatively high in calories and fat. To help keep your waistline in check while giving your meals a nutritional boost, Health magazine suggests 10 trade-offs to make on your next trip to the grocery store.

Rethink: Grapes
Reach for: Raspberries

While grapes are heart-healthy, they’re very low in fiber and vitamins. Raspberries are a great source of soluble fiber, which helps reduce bad cholesterol and makes you feel fuller faster – great news for your waistline. Save money by buying frozen when raspberries are out of season.
Rethink: Beets
Reach for: Asparagus

Beets just look healthy, don’t they? And they’re deliciously sweet (even sweeter when you roast them). But there’s a reason for that. Beets are full of sugar, sending your blood sugar on a glycemic roller coaster. When your blood sugar goes up and down, you get hungry faster, so you eat more often. It also causes you to store extra calories as fat. A smart alternative? Asparagus. Like beets, it’s yummy roasted, but it has the advantage of being much lower in sugar. Plus, asparagus is high in folate and vitamin C.

Rethink: Vanilla soy milk
Reach for: Skim milk

Vanilla soy milk is more like a dessert than a substitute for milk or a good source of soy. If you’re not lactose-intolerant choose skim milk, which has a lot of calcium but no fat or sugar. (Even plain soy milk has a little more calories and fat than skim milk.) If you just can’t break the vanilla-soy-milk habit, use a little in your coffee rather than in a big bowl of cereal or a smoothie.

Rethink: Vitamin-fortified water
Reach for: Flavored seltzer

One bottle of vitamin-fortified water can have more calories and sugar than a can of cola! And the vitamins are negligible, compared with the amount of sugar you’re getting. Replace it with flavored seltzer (zero calories) or a no-cal flavored water (like Hint) that contains no artificial sweeteners or added sugar.

Rethink: Couscous
Reach for: Bulgur or quinoa

Turns out couscous has the same nutritional value as white pastas like penne or rigatoni. The same amount of bulgur has fewer calories and three times the fill-you-up fiber. Quinoa is high in fiber, too, plus it’s a great source of protein (on par with a piece of chicken). Play around with different grains like wild or black rice, farro, or amaranth. You’ll find one you love that’s a whole lot healthier than white pasta or rice.
Rethink: Ground turkey
Reach for: Extra-lean ground sirloin

Surprised, right? Unless the label reads “lean ground turkey” or “turkey breast,” you’re actually getting a mix of white meat, dark meat, and even some skin, which all add up to 325 calories and 20 grams of fat for a 5-ounce serving. Compare that to 95 percent lean ground beef, which has 240 calories and 10 grams of fat. Lean beef also supplies a good helping of iron – almost five times more than turkey.

Rethink: Canned chickpeas
Reach for: Low-sodium red, black or white beans

Chickpeas are sneaky: They’re like beans, but with more fat and calories. Adding a few to your salad is fine. But for a main ingredient, try black, red or white beans, which have no fat, plenty of protein, fewer calories, and lots of nutrients like zinc and folate. Canned beans do have a lot of salt, though, so choose a low-sodium variety.

Rethink: Tricolor pasta
Reach for: Whole-wheat pasta

Many people are mindful about filling their dinner plates with colorful foods, so they may opt for tricolor pasta instead of white. But, there’s almost no spinach, beets, or other vegetables in each serving. Plus, the fiber-and-iron content is identical to that of plain white pasta – meaning it has fewer of these nutrients than whole-wheat pasta. The best color choice for pasta is brown. While they have similar calorie counts, whole-wheat versions have more fiber than white, so you fill up faster and eat less.

Rethink: Banana chips
Reach for: Dried apricots

Talk about a food that only sounds healthy! Most banana chips are deep-fried, with 220 calories and 15 grams of fat per half-cup – yikes! The same amount of dried apricots, on the other hand, has about 150 calories and less than 1 gram of fat (plus loads of vitamin A). Buy organic and you’ll also avoid sulphites, which can trigger migraines and even disrupt sleep.

Rethink: Goat cheese
Reach for: Feta cheese

Both of these cheeses have strong flavors, so the good news is you usually don’t go overboard with serving size. The Greek-salad staple is a healthier bet, though: It has about 4 grams of saturated fat per serving, compared with 7 grams in goat cheese, and around 15 fewer calories per ounce. Sold!

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