4 Star Foods

Staple foods you can eat regularly.  Daily is OK.  Especially if it is something you like.  It is possible to have too much, but you’d really have to try hard.

Blackberries

Per cup: calories 62, fat <1g, carbs 14g, protein 2g

If you fight a hefty sweet tooth, switching to fruit to scratch that itch is a monumental way to eat healthier.  Blackberries are a great example of Mother Nature’s candy.  You may never look at a gummy bear the same again.

Snack Sensations Pack®

Per pack: calories 180, fat 8g, carbs 21g, protein 6g

Grapes, apples, and cheese aren’t found encased in plastic together in nature, but no matter, this snack gives a solid mix of fats, carbs, and protein.  Making a good for you snack convenient is a rare way our food system helps us eat healthier.  Take advantage.

Babybel Cheese®

Per piece: calories 70, fat 6g, carbs 0g, protein 5g

Another entirely easy way to have a healthy snack.  Baby bell cheese gives you a good shot of protein to keep you feeling full longer.  And the three ingredients (pasteurized milk, salt, microbial enzymes) are how cheese has been made since, like, a really long time ago.

Perdue Individually Wrapped Chicken Breasts®

Per breast: calories 140, fat 1.5g, carbs 0g, protein 29g, (salt 15%)

This packaged chicken type is swimming in salt water so it doesn’t reach 5 star territory.  Nonetheless, it’s an easy way to add lean protein into your diet.  Don’t let great be the enemy of good.

Good Sense Organic Tropical Trail Mix®

Per ¼ cup (small handful): calories 140, fat 8g, carbs 18g, protein 2g

This mixture of dehydrated fruit and nuts is a solid snack choice.  It packs a caloric punch so a little goes a long way.  But whether hiking or running errands it satisfies your hunger and gives a good mix of carbs, protein, and healthy fats.  If you’ve got the wherewithal, making your own would be a superior option.

Franklin Farms Veggie Burger®

Per patty: calories 100, fat 2g, carbs 10g, protein 12g

I can’t comment on taste and texture of this vegetarian burger, but it certainly has a superior nutrition profile to a standard beef patty.  Anyone who has tried one let me know how they stack up at a summer barbecue.

Pistachios 

Per cup (heaping handful with shells): calories 160, fat 14g, carbs 8g, protein 6g

In establishments that only offer ‘convenience’ foods, nuts are usually the best option.  Pistachios fit that bill.  Similar to almonds they pack a caloric punch but also contain heart healthy fats and a good dose of fiber.  Plus, they’ve got cool commercials.

Plums

Per plum: calories 32, fat 0g, calories 7.5, protein 0.5g

Like nearly every fruit, plums are basically straight sugar.  Also like every other fruit they’re low in calories and packed with so much other good stuff the sugar content is hardly a deal breaker.  If you’re a plum fan, eat regularly.

Tangerines (mandarin oranges)

Per small: calories 38, fat <1g, carbs 9g, protein <1g

These Cuties® are just small oranges.  Like regular oranges, the kid’s lunch box version are a good choice.  And the attractive, kid-friendly packaging is a great start to making kids dig something other than processed junk.  Eat, and feed to your kids, at will.

Great Grains Banana Nut Crunch Cereal®

Per bowl (1 cup; no milk): calories 240, fat 6g, carbs 43g, protein 6g

No cartoon characters on this box, that’s a good start.  As cereals go, you don’t get much better.  The first 4 ingredients are whole grains.  Sugar shows up at #5.  A bowl of this every morning would not be a poor way to start the day.  Skim milk please.

Black Eyed Peas

Per ¼ cup: calories 90, fat 0g, carbs 23g, protein 9g

Eating them on New Year’s Day is considered good luck.  But, are they lucky for your waistline?  Absolutely.  Like other legumes, they’re full of fiber and a good source of protein.  Preparation is key.  Knock them down to a 3 star if salted & cured meat are swimming in your serving.

Canned Artichoke Hearts

Per can: calories 150, fat 0g, carbs 27g, protein 3g (salt 32%)

The same old story for canned veggies: Salt content is the only major drawback.  Per usual, fresh is best, but pick canned veggies over no veggies every time.  The high carbs here is mostly fiber.  Good stuff.

Kosher Dill Pickles

Per spear: calories 8, fat 0g, carbs 2g, protein 0g, (sodium 11% DV)

Pickles are cucumbers floating in salt water and spices.  Cucumbers are good for you.  Five-star good for you.  Pickles get knocked down to 4-star because, well, the cucumbers are swimming in salt water.

Mario Batali Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce®

Per cup (one ladleful): calories 140, fat 8g, carbs 12g (sugars 6g), protein 4g, (sodium 16%DV)

When buying jarred tomato sauce watch for two things: Sugar and Sodium content. The celebrity chef’s line of pasta sauces hit the mark on both accounts.  Don’t go ruining Chef Batali’s efforts by pouring his sauce over anything but whole grain pasta.

Cantaloupe 

Per large wedge (1/8 large melon): calories 36, fat <1g, carbs 8g, protein 1g

Like all fruits, the high sugar content means you can get too much.  But it’s really hard.  It’s a fantastic snack or after dinner sweet tooth satisfier.  Don’t let the recent Listeria scare you away, these melons can and should be eaten regularly.

Grated Parmesan Cheese

Per 2 tsps (one quick shake): calories 20, fat 1.5g, carbs 0g, protein 2g

Not just for pasta, I love to throw grated parmesan on veggies (see above).  The style pictured above has adds binders which pushes it dangerously close to 3-star standing.  If you can, invest in a good cheese grater and shred your own.  You’ll notice the difference and be solidly in 4-star zone.

Eggs

Per one egg: calories 70, fat 4.5g, carbs 1g, protein 6g

It’s incredible.  It’s edible.  Where would I be without eggs?  Likely hungry mid-morning.  Loaded with protien, they’re a wonderful way to start your day.  Scramble with some cheese and whatever veggies you can find.  And don’t be afraid of the yolks, that’s where all the heart healthy omega-3s reside.  Get these liquid chickens organic.

Avocado

Per 1 avocado: calories 276, fat 25g, carbs 14g, protein 3.5g

Yes, it’s kinda high in calories and fat.  But its fat is an abundance of heart healthy “good fats”.  Most of its carbs are fiber, keeping you full longer and not spiking your blood sugar.  And, they’re damned tasty.  Due to its thick skin, organic status is not a must.

Perdue Chicken Breast Roasted Garlic w/ White Wine

Per 1/2 cup serving: calories 110, fat 2.5g, carbs 3g (sugars 1g), protein19g, sodium 450mg

This is a tough one.  If this were star search I’d give it 3 1/2 stars.  High in protein, low in carbs and fat.  The drawback is the unnecessarily high salt content.  And, it’s certainly better to grill your own chicken in advance for later use.  However, if salt intake isn’t a concern, this is a solid, convenient choice.  I’m going 4 stars.

Mangos

Per 1 mango: calories 136, fat 0.5g, carbs 35.2g, protein 1.1g

Mangos are a delightful summer snack.  Cut them into cubes and keep in an airtight container in the fridge.  Or mix with red onion, cilantro, and lime juice for a salsa that can top fish.  Again, the high sugar content of fruit means it is possible to get to much.  But this is decidely a food that can and should be eaten regularly.  Because of a mango’s thick skin, organic status is not a must.  But wash the outer skin first!

Organic Quinoa

Per 1/4 cup: calories 170, fat 3g, carbs 30g, protein 5g

Ever tried quinoa? Ever HEARD of quinoa? Say it with me, keen-wa.  Quinoa is a fantastic alternative to rice.  High in protein and unprocessed grain, it makes for a healthy side.  Make it by boiling low sodium chicken stock and soaking it like rice. (check package for specific soaking time).  Add seasonings to taste.  You can also toss it with veggies and lean protein for a healthy stir fry style meal.  There’s tons of great recipes online.  If you eat rice several times a week, try quinoa as a healthy alternative.

Hummus
Per 2 tbsp: calories 70, fat 6g, carbs 3g, protein 1 g
You like dips, don’t you?  Well there’s none better than hummus.  It’s creamy, comes in a variety of flavors (I like jalapeno), and makes party guests think you’re sophisticated.  Be sure to dip carrots or celery.  Chips or bread ruins the nutritional value.

Watermelon

Per wedge: calories 86, fat 0.5g, carbs 21g, protein 2g

Watermelon is the perfect summer BBQ delight.  Seedless feels like cheating, but I’m not here to judge.  Enjoy to your heart’s content this holiday.  Unless its been filled with vodka by your fraternity brother. Then, only one wedge…

Pork Chops

Per Chop: calories 190, fat 11g, carbs 0g, protein 21g

I was always confused by “The Other White Meat” ads.  Chops are mostly red when raw.  Misleading ads aside, pork is a solid choice for protein in your healthy diet.  Although it has a high amount of fat, a good percentage is the “healthy” version.  No carbs, high protein, good fats.  My kind of food.  Grill it with salt and pepper and avoid those sugary sauces.

Organic Peaches

Per one large peach: calories 62, fat 0g, carbs 15g, protein 0g

One of the best ways to satisfy a sweet tooth, organic peaches hit all the right notes a fruit should.  Juicy, sweet, crisp, easy to eat, and well, fruity.  Peaches can be a staple of any healthy diet.  Remember, though, peaches are tops of the “Dirty Dozen” fruits and veggies exposed to pesticides.  Absolutely without question, buy organic.  Non-organic peaches I’d knock down to a 3-star.  Maybe even 2-star.

Bananas

Per 1 medium: calories 105, fat 0.4g, carbs 27g, protein 1.4g

Like most fruit, bananas are high in sugar, and therefore, carbohydrates.  But, also like most fruit, overall they’re healthy and make a fantastic snack.  Can you eat too many bananas?  Yeah, I guess.  Think you can keep it under 10 a week?  Thought so. (Organic status is not a concern.)

Greek Yogurt

Per 1 container: calories 140, fat 0g, carbs 20g, protein 14g

These days greek yogurt is all the rage.  (Good ol’ Oprah)  It is a solid choice.  It’s thicker than regular yogurt and higher in protein.  Careful though, yogurt can be high in sugar (aka: bad carbs).  Still, a solid snack choice.

Sun-dried Tomatoes

Per 2 teaspoon (about 6 shriveled tomatoes in oil):  calories 45, fat 3g, carbs 1g, protein <1g

An absolutely wonderful way to add flavor to most any dish.  Try in an omelette or sautéed with garlic and olive oil and tossed with whole grain pasta.  Sun-dried tomatoes add tons of flavor to food but minimal calories, carbs, and other bad stuff.  Give them a try.

String Cheese

Per stick: calories 80, fat 6g, carbs 1g, protein 8g

High in protein and calcium plus low in carbs and calories equals one of the best snack options around.  Kids (and adults!) love the peel and eat process.  The small shot of saturated fat (3.5g) is not enough to make this anything but a 4 star.

Grapes

Per 10 grapes (a handful): calories 35, fat 0g, carbs 9g, protein<1g

Grapes are great for you.  But, like most fruit, they’re mostly sugar.  Also like most fruit, don’t let that keep you from eating them regularly (just not a whole bunch a day).  Grapes are a fantastic snack and pack easily in lunch bags.  They travel even better when dried…

Raisins

Per ¼ cup (half a handful): calories 130, fat 0g, carbs 31g, protein 1g

They’re dried grapes so the sugar content is more concentrated, knocking them down a notch from fresh grapes.  But not enough to take them out of 4 star territory.  A solid, easy-to-take-with-you snack.

Boar’s Head Lemon Pepper Deli Chicken Breast

Per 2 oz (2-3 slices): calories 60, fat 1g, carbs 1g, protein 13g

Boar’s Head uses no fillers or additives, so they’re your best option for deli meat.  High in protein and low in fat makes this a wise choice to fill your sandwich.  Or roll up a slice with some cheese and spinach for satisfying snack.  Added salt
(15% daily value) keeps this option grounded at a 4 star.

Chunk Tuna (packed in water)

Per 2 ounces (a heaping soup spoon-ful):  calories 60, fat 0.5g, carbs<1g,              protein 13g

When buying packaged tuna always go for the packed in water version.  The oil packed styles are, well, packed in processed oil.  The airtight packaging means this protein can be stored at room temperature for extended periods of time.  Just like the cabbage, avoid mixing with mayo and you’ve got a wonderful snack (with celery) or lunch (between bread… with onion…and pepper…and hot sauce…and…).

Eat by Stars overview, 5 stars, 3 stars, 2 stars, 1 star

Disclaimer: I take all these pics myself at local markets.  In no way am I attempting to single out a specific brand or company.  One company’s product is not different or better than another’s similar product. I get all my nutritional info from the package.  For items without packages I consult fitday.com and the USDA Nutrient Data Labratory website.

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