Are fruits and veggies the only food groups on your diet shopping list? If so, you’re missing out on the opportunity to get important vitamins and minerals, burn some fat and stay full longer. Amy Jamieson-Petonic, MEd, RD, suggests keeping the following foods in your diet — even when you’re on a diet.
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1. Low-fat cheese
“People think that cheese is too high in fat and calories,” says Ms. Jamieson-Petonic. “It can be — if you do not watch the amount.” For a healthier portion, try eating 1 ounce of low-fat mozzarella string cheese with 100 percent whole-grain crackers for calcium, protein and a sense of fullness.
Don’t throw these out because of concerns about fat — these nuts actually have been found to help promote fat burning. In one study, for example, obese patients on a low-calorie diet who ate controlled portions of pistachios had lower triglycerides and body weight than similar patients snacking on pretzels.
3. Peanut butter
Peanut butter not only helps keep you full and satisfied but also offers heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, protein and dietary fiber. Remember that portion size is important. Ms. Jamieson-Petonic suggests 1 tablespoon of trans-fat-free peanut butter per serving. Look for peanut butter that has only one ingredient: peanuts!
4. Whole grains
Ms. Jamieson-Petonic says not all dieters need to cut out carbs, as long as they’re eating the right carbs. “Research has shown us that when people consume 100-percent whole grains, they are able to reduce inflammation and significantly reduce belly fat,” she says. Whole grains—in cereals, brown rice, pasta—as well as legumes provide B vitamins, antioxidants, protein and dietary fiber.
5. Extra virgin olive oil
“Perception is that fat will make you fat,” she says. But 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil offers healthy monounsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory compounds. Use it as a dip for whole-grain bread, or drizzle it on a salad.