The Top 10 Foods You Should Add To Your Diet

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!

Oatmeal

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! 

Almond Butter

“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

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.”

Spelt

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.

Edamame

“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.

Berries

Not only are all varieties of berries colorful and delicious, but also they’re loaded with vitamins and fiber. Clark says that berries “have more fiber per serving than do other servings of fruit… 1 cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber.” Berries are a great mix-in for a bowl of fro-yo, cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt, and they can even serve as a dessert (all you need to add is whipped cream or some chocolate!).  Fresh berries are not always the most accessible food on a college campus, but Clark has some advice for how you can still get your berry benefits: “if fresh fruits and vegetables aren't available, try frozen fruits and vegetables (without added salt and sugar) for a nutritious alternative - but avoid canned as they tend to be lower in overall nutrition value,” she says.

Honey

Follow in the footsteps of Winnie The Pooh and embrace honey. Honey is a natural sweetener, meaning it is less processed than regular table sugar and actually has vitamins and minerals whereas sugar has none. Honey also has antioxidants that can help build your immune system to keep you healthy—it’s no secret that sicknesses like the flu and colds spread way too fast on college campuses, so we need all the immune system building we can get! If you feel yourself starting to get sick, mix a spoonful of honey into hot water and add some lemon juice, or just add some to a cup of tea, and let the honey work its antibacterial magic. Or, you could make a honey and almond butter sandwich for a tasty, yet healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Whole Grains

Whole grain products, such as whole grain bread or brown rice (or spelt!), are full of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all of which have proven disease-fighting powers. The problem with buying whole grain products, however, is that brands will often advertise their products as “whole grain” even though they might not be 100% whole grain. Clark recommends, “look for the word ‘whole’ in the first ingredient, or those that say they contain 100% whole grain—not just whole grain, which can be significantly less than 100%.” So skip the white bread and switch to 100% whole grain bread to get more nutritional benefits from your morning toast or lunchtime sandwich.

Flaxseed

Flaxseed is an amazing source of omega-3 essential fatty acids (which are heart-healthy fats proven to deliver multiple health benefits), lignans (an antioxidant), and fiber. Flaxseed comes in both oil and ground forms, both of which have a nutty flavor. You can’t cook with the oil, but you can mix it into salad dressings or soups, and you can sprinkle ground flaxseed into cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt. You can even get small packets of ground flaxseed to take with you on the go!

Skim Milk & Almond Milk

“If you eat dairy, look for nonfat (skim) and 1% (lowfat) items to get the protein, calcium and vitamins A&D benefits without the saturated fat and calories of higher fat dairy options,” says Clark. If you don’t eat dairy (or even if you do and want to try something new), almond milk has even fewer calories per cup than skim milk and has vitamin E. “We have almond milk in our house for girls that are vegans…I tried it for the first time this year and I actually really like it,” Meredith says.