Besides the beta-carotene (a disease-fighting carotenoid that our bodies convert to vitamin A) that's responsible for their vibrant color, sweet potatoes provide vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, and fiber -- all for about 100 calories in a medium potato. But when you fry these and other vegetables (hello, broccoli bites and zucchini sticks), the fat and calorie counts skyrocket. Not only that, but a study in the Journal of Food Science found that certain vegetables, like zucchini, actually lose some of their antioxidant power when fried.
A baked sweet potato is the worry-free choice (mash in 2 tablespoons of a creamy fat-free dressing for extra flavor); eat the skin and you'll also get at least 4 g of fiber. If you're just not satisfied with a baked spud, buy a bag of oven-ready frozen fries at the supermarket. Compare labels and choose ones that have no trans fat and no more than 0.5 g saturated fat per serving.
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You saute your heart-smart fish in glugs of olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is high in "good" monounsaturated fat -- the kind of fat that can help lower LDL cholesterol -- but it also has about 477 calories and 54 g of fat per 1/4 cup. If you don't measure the amount of oil you use to saute, grill, broil, or roast, you can end up with way more than you need.
When grilling or broiling, use a pastry brush or nonaerosol pump to lightly glaze food with oil, says Jennifer Nelson, RD, director of clinical dietetics and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. If you're making a stir-fry, wipe a paper towel dipped in olive oil around the wok before adding ingredients -- or better yet, use a nonstick skillet. You can also make your sautes sizzle with wine, soy sauce, chicken broth, or 100& carrot, tomato, or vegetable juice. And try poaching your fish in low-fat broth or watered-down orange juice; the fillets will soak up some of the liquid, which will make you feel fuller, says Barbara Rolls, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University and author of "The Volumetrics Eating Plan."
You top your veggie-laden salad with cheese and nuts
The virtue of a salad starts to wilt when you add more than one calorie-dense topping, such as cheese, nuts, dried fruit, or croutons. Cheeses can register high in bad saturated fat, and though nuts have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that may help raise good (HDL) cholesterol, a small serving of walnuts (about 7 pieces) can add up to about 185 calories and 18 g of fat. Plus, some add-ons are high in sodium.
Nelson offers an easy-to-remember ratio for preparing entree salads: "Three-quarters should be fresh fruits and vegetables, and the last quarter should be a combo of lean protein, like chicken, plus a complex carbohydrate such as wheat berries or quinoa. Then allow yourself two tablespoons of calorie-dense items." For major nutrition impact with minimal calorie load, forgo dried fruit in favor of fresh pomegranate seeds; they're potent in polyphenols, and researchers at Case Western Reserve University found that pomegranate extract may be effective in reducing the inflammation that can lead to arthritis.
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