It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by nutrition advice. Surprisingly, most of my client’s concerns are about nutrients and not food. They don’t know if they’re getting what they need from their diet and they’re confused about what foods are actually good for them. Surprised to hear that? Well, it doesn’t help that the popular media puts out ridiculous articles about fruit making them fat or vegetables making them sick (anti-nutrients, really?). If an article starts with the words NEVER or MUST, please…take it with a grain of salt.
Here’s the thing. A nutrient-rich diet is definitely what you’re striving for, but that doesn’t mean you have to track every single nutrient you eat. Eating foods that nourish your body is important, but getting the nutrients you need every day shouldn’t be overwhelming.
I like to say that healthy habits add up to a healthy lifestyle, so I try to focus on what I can do on a daily basis to nourish myself, and that’s where my Daily Dozen list comes into play!
Inspired by Dr. McGreger, author of the book How Not to Die, my Daily Dozen is a list of foods I try to get in every day in order to nourish my body and enjoy my meals. These are my staples and they make up the foundation of what I eat on a consistent basis. I know if I’m eating these foods almost every day, I’m getting in what I need for optimal health. I encourage you to come up with your own Daily Dozen list, too. Here are mine!
Beans are packed with fiber and protein and they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals. They are a key component of all of the healthiest diets in the world. I get my daily bean fix by draining canned beans and using them in salads, wraps, pasta dishes, and more, by eating soy foods like tempeh and tofu, by dipping veggies in hummus, or by eating fresh shelled edamame as a snack.
Olive oil is high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and is a key component of the Mediterranean Diet, which has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol and reducing inflammation. I opt for extra virgin olive oil (the unprocessed oil released from the first press of olives) to reap all the nutritious benefits, and use it daily on salads, stir fries, roasted veggies, and more. I pretty much use olive oil for everything.
Omega 3 fatty acids are well-known for their anti-inflammatory and heart health benefits, so I try to eat foods that include them daily. Although I’ve certainly done it, eating salmon every day gets monotonous (and expensive!), so I aim for a variety of omega 3-rich foods like tuna, flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds, and I rotate them every day. When salmon isn’t on my dinner menu, chia seed pudding is. I also make sure to include flax or hemp seeds in my morning smoothie or as a topper for oatmeal or yogurt.
Avocados are an everyday staple in my diet. They’re high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, brain boosting lutein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They’re filling, nutritious, and super tasty – not to mention versatile! Avocados are great mashed onto toast, sliced onto a salad, pureed into a sauce or dressing (like in my Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Avocado Cream and in my 5-Spice Tempeh Salad with Avocado Ranch), or blended into a smoothie.
Eggs are a great source of protein in the morning. I never skip the yolk – it’s packed with fat-soluble vitamins, minerals like vitamin E, and brain-boosting lutein! One of my favorite breakfasts from my Nourish program is a big bowl of greens with mashed avocado and soft boiled eggs on top. It’s so satisfying and includes 3 of my Daily Dozen ingredients in one meal!
That’s right – I eat bread every day because I love bread, and I truly enjoy eating it! If I’m not toasting up some pita on my gas stove, I’ve got sprouted bread in the pantry. Sprouted bread is whole grain and flourless, but packed with fiber, so it’s one of my favorite healthy carbs. I’ve yet to find a more tasty breakfast than avocado toast with a fried egg or topped with smoked salmon. And when I’m in the mood for really good, crusty sourdough, it makes the perfect accompaniment to a big salad or bowl of soup.
Fermented foods contain the healthy bacteria that help support your immune system and gut health. When your gut microbiota is out of balance, it can lead to things like gas, bloating, diarrhea, and yeast infections. Most of us get our live cultures from yogurt, but other fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso are also great sources! I usually blend yogurt into smoothies, top sandwiches and egg dishes with kimchi or sauerkraut, or cook with tempeh for dinner to get my probiotics in daily.
Berries & Fruit
Berries are some of the most antioxidant-rich fruits out there, thanks to anti-inflammatory compounds like polyphenols and anthocyanins. Berries have been found to help control blood sugar, improve heart health, and support cognitive health, but they’re not the only type of fruit that’s worth including in your Daily Dozen. Fruit in general is full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and it’s associated with healthy weight in women. I buy berries and other fruits fresh when they’re in season or frozen year-round to blend into smoothies, top yogurt and oatmeal, or eat as a snack. Check out all my Wild Blueberry recipes here!
Salads are a great way to load up on veggies and incorporate other healthy ingredients (like beans, avocado, olive oil, and more!) into a filling meal. I like to top my salads with roasted veggies, cheese, nuts and seeds, hearts of palm, beets, shredded carrots, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, black beans, lentils, salmon, avocado, or eggs — just to keep it interesting. When it comes to my base, I usually toss in a few different greens and rotate my favorites…including arugula, endive, and butter lettuce.
I couldn’t go a day without a little dark chocolate! Eating a square of 60-70% dark chocolate every night is part of my sugar strategy, so I’ve chosen wisely to incorporate sweet things that I really enjoy. Creating a sugar strategy is my number one tip for ending your battle with sugar cravings, and it’s a key step in my Nourish program. Plus, one could argue that dark chocolate is a health food in its own right! A recent study found that eating 70% cacao dark chocolate had positive effects on stress, inflammation, mood, memory, and immunity. I’ll take it!
Cruciferous vegetables contain phytonutrients that can help lower inflammation and prevent cancer. Most cruciferous vegetables are also rich in vitamins and minerals like folate, vitamin K, and vitamin C, so they’re all around nutritional powerhouses. They get special mention on my list because I try really hard to eat a serving (or two!) of these superfoods each day! I love to roast brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower as an easy side dish or base for a power bowl at lunch. They always make there way into my day, one way or another!
Hydration is an important part of staying healthy, but here’s the thing: I’m not the best at drinking water. I like my beverages to have a little flavor to them, so plain water hardly ever does the trick for quenching my thirst. That’s why I make sure to keep plenty of kombucha and iced hibiscus tea in my fridge, or a glass of chia fresca. Having options on hand that are hydrating and flavorful helps ensure that I stay hydrated while I avoid my water bottle all day long.
Okay, now it’s your turn — grab a pen and paper and think about the nutrient-rich foods that make you feel great!