How to eat like a dietitian

Nutritionists from the University of Maryland Medical System regularly contribute a guest post. The latest post, reprinted here, is from Shanti Lewis.

"What diet should I follow?" is the most common question dietitians face. Dietitians seek foods that are nutrient-dense, budget-friendly and versatile. After surveying the group of dietitians at the University of Maryland Medical Center, it appears that there are five common foods that all of us keep on hand that meet that criteria: old-fashioned oats, nonfat plain Greek yogurt, fresh or frozen leafy vegetables, canned or dried beans/lentils, and unsalted nuts/seeds/natural nut butters.

Oats

Old-fashioned oats are inexpensive and offer cholesterol-lowering fiber that can help stabilize blood sugar, lower your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and aid in weight control by keeping you fuller longer. Oats can be used in a variety of different ways beyond breakfast and can make a crunchy topping for desserts, baked fish or chicken.

Plain Greek yogurt

Nonfat plain Greek yogurt has a thick and creamy texture and offers twice the amount of protein but lower lactose levels than regular yogurt. The extra protein keeps you fuller longer and helps maintain your waistline. In addition, it provides an excellent source of calcium, potassium, zinc and vitamins B6 and B12. The tartness of the yogurt can serve as a complement to the sweetness of fresh fruit. It can be substituted for sour cream in many recipes, boosting the nutrient content. Also, it can replace some of the fat when baking your favorite muffins or cakes.

Leafy greens

Whether fresh or frozen, kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens or Swiss chard can serve as a stand-alone vegetable or can be added to a variety of dishes, including soups, rice or pasta dishes, and omelets. These greens are nutrient-packed with vitamins A, C and K, potassium, folate, calcium, iron, lutein and fiber.

Beans and lentils

Beans are rich in protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. They can be used to substitute for meat in a numerous dishes, including soups, stews, salads, tacos or wraps. Using beans as a meat alternative can help decrease the number of calories in your meal. You might want to try to incorporate them in your next Meatless Monday menu.

Nuts and seeds

While they are high in fat and calories, nuts and seeds are packed with healthy unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, protein and the antioxidant Vitamin E. You might want to try new ways to incorporate small amounts of nuts and seeds to your diet, such as adding chia seeds to your Greek yogurt or adding a handful of walnuts to your salad. Look for unsalted and minimally processed forms to maximize the nutritional benefit. Research suggests the protein, fiber and fat in nuts and seeds may aid in satiety and could help with weight maintenance or weight loss, but portion size and moderation are important to keep in mind.