What you need to consume every day depends on what your ultimate goal is. While certain nutrients are generally known for one of its major benefits – such as fiber for keeping your digestive system in tact – a combination of several will help your skin glow, flatten your stomach, boost your metabolism, and give you lots of energy. And these are just the basics.
Let’s say until now you’ve had pizza for breakfast, burgers for dinner, and Snickers for lunch, but never gained weight or felt bad. Until now. You’re starting to see the effects of the abuse you’ve subjected your body.
“For anyone looking to eat healthier, I recommend making many small changes over time,” Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area, says. “For instance, tomorrow add some veggies to your pizza. The next day, swap your burger bun for a whole-grain one, and the next day have a piece of fruit and a string cheese as a snack instead of a candy bar.”
Diet is not rocket science. What works for some people may not be the best option for others. But certain foods are good or bad choices for everyone.
Protein is important as people age for many reasons. One is that protein is needed to build and maintain muscle as well as your organs, hair, skin, and nails, Gorin says. “In general, I’d recommend eating 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal and then also incorporating protein into your snacks.” So for instance, you could add edamame to a vanilla protein shake or top your cherry French toast with an egg, she adds.
Protein is also important for muscle growth and recovery surrounding workouts, Gorin says. It helps repair any damage that happened to your muscles during the exercise and also to help prevent injury and build strength. “You can get protein by adding white beans to a naan pizza, by eating avocado deviled eggs, or by adding milk to pomegranate chia pudding,” she says.
Eating at least two 3.5-ounce servings of cooked fatty fish such as salmon and herring weekly is helpful for good health, especially as you get older, Gorin says. This is because the fish offers the omega-3s EPA and DHA, which are beneficial for heart health, she adds.
And along with vitamin D, calcium may also help decrease belly fat, Gorin says. In one study, people who consumed 100 IU of vitamin D and 350 milligrams of calcium via fortified orange juice daily noticed a larger decrease in belly fat, compared to people who didn’t drink the fortified orange juice, she adds. “Get your calcium by adding cottage cheese to an orange coconut parfait or by blending Greek yogurt into a naturally sweetened frozen mocha.”
Dairy such as yogurt, milk, and cottage cheese offer the mineral calcium, which is beneficial for bone health. Not getting enough calcium puts you at risk for osteopenia, a condition that can increase risk of osteoporosis, Gorin says. “Some of my favorite ways to eat dairy include adding Greek yogurt to a Greek yogurt breakfast parfait or chocolate strawberry overnight oats.”
The vitamin actually functions as a hormone, and every single cell in the body has a receptor for it, which is why it affects many functions and processes that keep a person healthy and happy. Sources include supplements and, surprisingly, certain foods. It naturally occurs in a few, but it is added to many processed foods.
These berries are rich in polyphenols, which may help protect your skin from the harmful effects of sun damage, shows research. Not eating enough fruit has been linked with acne, which makes eating your berries all the more important, Gorin says. “I like to add frozen wild blueberries to a wild blueberry smoothie with lavender.”
This helps you keep the wrinkles away, Gorin says. Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which could help protect your skin from wrinkles and other damage caused by UV light, she adds. “Cooked tomato products, such as tomato sauce, are great because your body is able to better absorb the lycopene from cooked tomatoes.” One of Gorin’s favorite ways to eat tomato sauce is in a spaghetti squash with marinara dish.
They are great if you need an energy boost. “I love to carry these around with me in my purse or bag for a quick, healthy snack on the go,” Gorin says. The nuts are full of plant protein, as well as fiber and beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats—which all help to keep you fuller for longer, she adds. “Also, I really like that the in-shell nuts offer a visual cue, which may help slow you down and possibly prevent you from overdoing it on extra calories.” In a preliminary study, people who ate in-shell pistachios consumed about 40 percent less calories than people who ate the shelled version, she adds.
If you think about it, a latte without any sugary add-ins is just espresso and milk, Gorin says. “I suggest using 1 or 2 percent milk in your latte, so you get satiating protein while also cutting back on fat. And go for a small latte, not a large one!”
“I love this snack combo,” Gorin says. “The cheese offers protein, and the fruit provides filling fiber.” Mix up the fruit—try different kinds every week.
Cauliflower is high on the list of vegetables that contain vitamin C, Gorin says. “Pair it with hummus or guacamole, or steam it as a side dish.” Vitamin C is crucial for a healthy immune system. It helps to maintain blood vessels, prevent cell damage, and fight free radical damage.
These are another vegetable source of vitamin C. They’re a great addition to a stir-fry and are also great dippers when paired with salsa, Gorin says. Bell peppers, a superfood for weight loss, are low in calories and higher in fiber. Red bell provide157 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. Also, capsaicin, which gives peppers their spice, has been shown to boost metabolism.
This one sounds so simple, but water is so important for keeping you hydrated, Gorin says. People are chronically dehydrated. “If you don’t like the taste of water, you can add some berries or cucumber and lemon to a water pitcher for some added flavor. And tea counts as water, too!” she adds.
“Another beverage I’d recommend is 100 percent grape juice made with Concord grapes,” Gorin says. Research reveals that drinking it promotes heart health, and emerging research suggests it can support immune health and mind health—all the more important as we get older, Gorin adds. “Drink it straight, or blend it into an energizing smoothie. If you’re trying to cut calories, you can do a fifty-fifty blend with seltzer.”