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I see a lot of articles about eating a "rainbow." It's a good idea because there are so many great fruits and veggies that are so good for you and thinking of all the colors can help bring a lot of variety to your meals.
But you don't have to restrict this to just fruits and veggies. There are a lot of great foods that are part of that rainbow of healthy colors. I am including brown and white as part of that rainbow, because if I don't, you'll miss so many great foods.
Strawberries: Tons of Vitamin C with fiber and not very many calories.
Beets: Sweet, delicious and full of fiber and beta carotene. Roast them and chill for salads or serve them as the ideal side dish.
Radishes: Spicy, crunchy and a perfect addition to salads, with only a single calorie in a large radish.
Lean red meat: We now know that processed meat is the real problem. Choose lean sirloin, flank steak or tenderloin. Ground beef is a good choice. Look for 90% or 95% lean. Select lean lamb or pork cuts.
Salmon: A fantastic way to get healthy fats. Great quality salmon can be found almost everywhere now and should be part of your menus.
Yams: More fiber than potatoes and tons more vitamins and flavor. Almost any recipe that you make that calls for potatoes can use yams as a substitute.
Oranges: Sweet and delicious, oranges (but not orange juice) are full of Vitamin C. The perfect afternoon snack.
Carrots: Crunchy and tasty, carrots are filling and full of Vitamin A. Fresh carrots are great in salads, soups or as part of a stew.
Peaches: Put them in a paper bag to ripen and then peel and slice them with just a sprinkle of sugar for lots of added fiber and beta carotene in your dessert.
Cheddar cheese: Cheese is a good source for processed dairy and adds so much flavor to many recipes. Choose reduced fat cheddar cheeses with about 6 grams of fat per ounce.
Egg yolks: We now know that eggs and egg yolks are not a problem for most people and are, in fact, a great source of protein and healthy fats as well as great B vitamins.
Yellow squash: Almost no calories but filling and full of delicious fiber.
Lemons: Lemons add flavor to almost any dish, even if it's just a dash of juice. Lemon zest brings a bitter zing to your recipes.
Polenta: A great choice as a side dish, choose whole grain coarse ground cornmeal for flavor and fiber.
Yellow peppers: A great change from green peppers, with a tart sweetness that adds to almost any dish. Sautee them with onions to start your scrambled eggs (yellow on yellow) or keep them around for salads.
Spinach: Full of Vitamin K and iron, but almost no calories, spinach is perfect in salads and on sandwiches.
Broccoli: Chock full of Vitamin C, folic acid, Vitamin K and fiber, broccoli is the nearly perfect green vegetable as a side dish, as a soup or for salads.
Kale: Tons of lutein and Vitamin A for your eyes with Vitamin K, fiber, Vitamin C and almost no calories. Cook kale in soups or sautéed for a side dish.
Green lentils: Almost as good as meat, these are chock full of protein, and served with rice make for a great meal as a side dish or in chilis.
Blueberries: One of the highest amounts of antioxidants of any berry. Perfect on top of your cereal in the morning.
Blue cheese: It takes just a little blue cheese to add maximum flavor to your recipe.
Blue cornmeal: For that special twist on weekend pancakes.
Beet greens: People often throw the greens away, but rinse them and sauté them in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Add calcium and Vitamin K to your diet the easy way.
Purple potatoes: A great twist on mashed potatoes with good quality carbohydrates, Vitamin C and potassium.
Red grapes: The antioxidants in grapes make them the perfect snack.
Tuna: Either canned or fresh, tuna provides you with a lot of wonderful Omega-3 fats.
Eggplant: One of my very favorite vegetables, eggplant is sweet, savory and full of fiber. They are great roasted or sautéed with pasta dishes.
OK, it's not part of the traditional rainbow, but there's so much that's brown that's good for you (mostly because of the added fiber), including:
Whole grain bread
Whole wheat pasta
Chocolate: We know that chocolate is good for you, especially dark chocolate. The quality of the fats make it a good choice for your occasional treat.
Coffee and tea: There's tons of research on these two and how good they are. They have more antioxidants than any other food or drink that we consume.
Beans: Take your pick. There's just nothing much better for you than beans. Kidneys, garbanzos, black eyes.... Legumes are great for you and including them in your weekly menus is the key to begin really healthy (and eating great food).
Nuts: We know that nuts are great for you. They have a positive effect on cholesterol profile are filling and may help with blood pressure. Choose walnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds or cashews.
Popcorn: Popcorn can be the nearly perfect snack. Air pop yours or choose the light versions of microwave popcorn for a great low calorie snack that's high in fiber.
Fish: There's a lot of great quality fish like grouper, halibut, cod, drum, sole and on and on. Choose a white fish once or twice each week as part of your meal plans.
Tofu: Rich, meaty and oh, so versatile. Tofu is great for your meatless meals. Try the extra firm sautéed in small blocks or as part of your fried rice dishes. The soft tofu makes great smoothies and medium firm is perfect to scramble like eggs.
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
December 6, 2010