It seems like just about every month, health magazines, books, and blogs release a new list of the top ten foods you MUST add to your diet, whether it to be to get you a flatter belly, shinier hair, or stronger immune system. While these claims are often a bit exaggerated—let's face it, just eating more apples will probably not result in the makeover you may be hoping for—there is no denying that certain foods pack some serious health benefits. As we are living the college lifestyle, which often consists of quite a few less-than-healthy habits, it’s even more important for us to make sure we are getting as much of these awesome benefits as we can. That’s why we’re presenting you with a list of the top ten HC-approved foods to add to your diet—and since we’re gearing the choices specifically towards collegiettes, it’s better than all those other lists out there!
If your go-to breakfast is a bagel, or a bowl of sugar-coated cereal, or just a measly cup of coffee, it’s time to switch up your morning routine to fuel yourself with something that will actually nourish you and give you the energy you need to get through the day. Registered Dietitian and nutrition consultant Katie Clark explains that “Oatmeal made with skim milk (or soy milk if you don’t drink milk) is a great source of dietary fiber, protein and calcium to get you going in the morning.” Unlike the empty calories provided by a bagel or sugary cereals, the combination of fiber and protein found in oatmeal will keep you satisfied until lunchtime rolls around so your stomach won’t be grumbling in class. The fiber is also good for your digestive system and can lower your cholesterol and risk of developing high blood pressure. Think oatmeal is bland and gross? Think again! Just like your favorite fro-yo, there are endless toppings you can add to make it tastier and never boring, like fresh or dried fruit, nuts, peanut butter, honey or chocolate chips!
“I used to eat processed peanut butter all the time until I realized how much sugar was in it,” says Kaylee, sophomore at the University of Michigan. “One of my friends told me to try natural peanut butter and natural almond butter, and now I like both of those so much more… the almond butter has more of a nutty taste and it’s so creamy!” Almonds are a great source of protein, healthy monounsaturated fats, and vitamins and minerals. You may have been told to avoid almonds and nuts in general because of their high calorie count, but according to WH Foods, studies have shown that eating nuts actually lowers risk of weight gain and that the healthy fats in almonds may aid in weight loss. Kaylee says she likes to mix almond butter into her oatmeal with bananas, so you combine two of our top foods into one delicious breakfast!
Avocados sometimes get a bad rap because they’re considered “fattening,” but you should not nix them because of that! While avocados do contain a fair amount of fat, it’s monounsaturated fat, which is the healthy kind that you need in moderation for your body to function properly. Though this isn’t your all-access-pass to go overboard with the chips and guacamole, you should definitely try adding a few slices to your sandwich or salad. Clark recommends opting for California Avocados, which she says “are hand-picked for optimal taste and freshness… they’re of much better quality than some of the other avocados.” She adds that “1/5 of an avocado has 50 calories and over 20 essential vitamins and minerals—peel carefully as the most concentrated source of phytonutrients are found closest to the peel.”
By now you’ve surely heard of quinoa (even the Twitter account Sh*t Girls Say has recognized the hype, tweeting “I love quinoa.”), but have you heard of spelt? Like quinoa, spelt is an ancient whole grain full of protein and fiber. It actually has 50% more protein than regular wheat and is low on the glycemic index, both of which mean it’ll provide you with a long-lasting supply of energy to power you through your day. Spelt has a bit more of a nutty flavor than quinoa and is a bit more firm and chewy, so you can even taste how hearty it is when you’re eating it. You can cook it stove top like rice or quinoa and serve it as a side dish or mix in other foods like veggies, chicken, or cheese to make it a main dish. Don’t have a stove or the time? There are other ways to get your daily fix of spelt! Many supermarkets, especially health-based ones like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, sell products made of spelt such as tortillas, bagels or frozen waffles, so there’s barely any preparation necessary.
“Our chef at our sorority house always puts a giant bowl of edamame out every lunch and we all love it,” says Meredith, sophomore at the University of Michigan. “It’s the perfect snack or side dish… they’re fun to eat and taste good but are also really filling.” Edamame, which is a type of soybean, has lots of important vitamins and minerals and is a great source of protein for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. A half-cup of shelled edamame has only about 120 calories, which is not a lot for how much protein you get! You can buy a bag of frozen shelled edamame at any grocery store and then thaw a portion whenever you want. They taste great on salads or with rice, or even just on their own.