The body needs and relies on nutrients from foods for disease prevention, growth and overall good health. So it’s important to “eat a rainbow,” or include a variety of colorful vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy into your everyday diet. That said, too much variety can be overwhelming. You can spend hours recipe planning, shopping and cooking because you think that’s what dieting requires. Wish you knew where to start? Wish you had a short list of the foods you’ll enjoy eating again and again—as is or to complement other foods? We’ve got you covered with what you should keep in your fridge to stay on track with your healthy lifestyle.
Check out nine South Beach superfoods to keep in your fridge at all times:
1. String Cheese
On the South Beach Diet we classify string cheese as a Healthy Fat: A better-for-you-fat without excess sodium, calories and added sugar. It takes longer for our bodies to digest Healthy Fats, so we feel full longer. And, because these foods won’t cause spikes in blood sugar, we’re given consistent energy to power us through the day. We said all of that to say this: There is nothing more convenient than keeping a stock of cheese sticks ready-to-grab in the fridge. It’s already one ounce (the recommended serving size). It’s individually wrapped and ready to pop in your purse or coat pocket. Plus, it’s cheese. So you feel like you’re cheating when you eat it.
For more on Healthy Fats, including how many servings you need and what kinds of foods are Healthy Fats, read Healthy Fats 101: Everything You Need to Know >
2. Leafy Greens
Spinach. Kale. Watercress. Swiss chard. Whether you add these veggies to your morning smoothie or enjoy them in a fresh salad, the most important thing is to eat up! Adults should enjoy two to three cups of leafy greens a day, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). We agree here at South Beach Diet. A cup of leafy greens counts as one (of five) servings of veggies we recommend you eat daily. If you eat two or three cups, you’re halfway to meeting your requirement. Leafy greens are chockful of fiber (which keeps you full), they’re very low in calories, and they’re completely devoid of cholesterol. Leafy greens can also lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to Harvard Health, and new research suggests they may also support brain health and prevent some types of cancers.
This mild-tasting, versatile veggie can be served as rice, mashed potatoes or even made into pizza crust. You can also slab it, grill it and serve it like a big vegetarian steak (with a little gorgonzola butter on top!). And then, of course, you can eat cauliflower raw and dip it in hummus, salsa or guacamole. What’s our point? Every time you eat one cup of raw or a half cup of cooked cauliflower, you’re fulfilling one of your five required veggie servings and loading up on fiber, cancer-fighting B vitamins and antioxidants, choline for learning and memory, plus potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and folate. The many benefits along are enough to keep this superfood on hand in your fridge!
In an October 2008 International Journal of Obesity study, overweight adults were calorie restricted and given either two eggs or bagels for breakfast. After eight weeks, those who ate eggs showed a 61 percent greater reduction in BMI, a 65 percent greater weight loss, and a 34 percent greater reduction in waist circumference. Studies like this one affirm why you’re following a low carb diet. According Healthline, a whole egg provides six grams of protein, nine essential amino acids, iron, phosphorus, selenium, vitamins A, B12 and B5 and 113 mg of choline for your brain health—not to mention lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health. Hard-boil eggs for easy snacks, whip up omelets for breakfast, lunch or dinner or try out-of-the-box recipes like our Easy Egg Tacos or Poached Eggs in Red Sauce. One whole egg or two egg whites count as one serving on your South Beach meal plan.
Protein-rich foods have consistently been found to produce sustained feelings of fullness, which is why Proteins are the cornerstone of the South Beach Diet. But Healthline points to research that suggests fish scores higher on a satiety index than any other protein-rich food including eggs, beef, or chicken. It doesn’t matter what you pick—crab, catfish, shrimp, halibut or salmon—fish fills you up without filling you out and also delivers essential fats like omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, potassium and iron. The USDA recommends eating fish twice a week. On the South Beach Diet, you’ll need to stick to a 3-ounce serving.
6. Lemons (or Limes)
When one has seafood in the fridge, there must also be citrus. Lemons and limes cut that “fishy” taste and bring light, tangy flavor to a host of foods including Proteins, Non-Starchy and Starchy Vegetables and Good Carbs. Best of all: You can enjoy the flavor as often as you like because lemon and lime juice are considered Free Foods on the South Beach Diet. (A serving size is under 10 calories and has less than one gram of carbs.) Nutrition wise, lemons and limes are loaded with vitamin C, folate, potassium, flavonoids and limonins (cholesterol-lowering compounds). Mix up your own salad dressing to have on hand with a little lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and dried herbs. Pre-cut lemon slices to flavor your water. And don’t forget to use the zest of lemons or limes to bring a more concentrated flavor to sauces and soups.
7. Greek Yogurt
The USDA recommendation for dairy products in children, adults and seniors is clear: Eat (or drink) two or three servings daily. That’s because a diet rich in protein and Vitamin D—which milk and dairy products amply provide—can build and maintain bone health. According to the Dairy Council of California, cultured diary foods like yogurt contain probiotics that promote intestinal health, improve immune health, and potentially even sharpen mental health. While Greek and regular yogurt are good dairy choices, by “going Greek,” you’ll get almost double the amount of protein, and often, get less sodium and sugar. Be sure to read the ingredient list to make sure to avoid added sugars and artificial flavors. Full-fat dairy is recommended on the South Beach Diet and the serving size is one cup for yogurt and milk. Dairy products fall into the Healthy Fat category.
Okay, while you don’t necessarily have to refrigerate avocados unless you’re preserving one that’s ripe or you’re wrapping up the other half for later (because one Healthy Fat serving equals half a fruit), avocados are ridiculously versatile and the reason they’re on this list. From sunny-side-up egg boats and Open-Faced Egg and Avocado Sandwiches to Chocolate Avocado Pudding, avocado, a healthy fat, can be enjoyed in sweet or salty recipes. Studies published in the Nutrition Journal showed individuals who regularly consumed avocados had smaller waists, lower BMI’s and a 50 percent lower chance of developing a metabolic syndrome than those who avoided the fruit. A study published in the Archives of Medical Research showed adults who consumed avocado-enriched diets had a significant decrease in their total cholesterol by 17 percent and an increase of good cholesterol by 11 percent.
Having trouble eating all five servings of veggies a day? Hummus makes everything taste better. Have some (a quarter cup is one serving) with raw veggie dippers, slather it on a warm, high-fiber, whole-grain pita (half a pita is one serving), or use it like a sauce for Proteins such as chicken, fish, or pork loin. It’s really easy to make at home if you’d like—blend garbanzo beans, lemon, salt, pepper and olive oil. Want to add garlic or roasted red peppers? Go for it. Tahini (made from sesame seeds) is what gives hummus its signature flavor and you can find it in most grocery stores. Nutrition wise hummus is awesome, according to information published in the Huffington Post, boasting with high levels of folate, dietary fiber, protein, iron and a host of other vitamins and minerals including manganese, magnesium and copper.