What should I eat now? Any time you hear that question you hear from people trying to lose weight. If you’re someone who regularly struggles with your weight and are considering a diet, you know how difficult it can be to find advice that fits your unique grocery and dietary needs. A diet could work for someone else but give no results for you and the opposite could happen as well.
Very Good Things to Eat Right Now
There’s a lot of unsolicited chatter floating around about what we should and shouldn’t be doing to stay healthy at a time when we’re anxious, socially distant, and feeling under threat: Vitamins? What kinda soap? How many feet apart? Help! And while there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to eat right now (or ever), a lot of us are trying to make food choices that support—rather than hinder—our efforts to keep ourselves feeling well.
So, from my coffee-table-turned-work-desk, surrounded by a French press and a bowl of cashew crumbs, I reached out to Rachelle Robinett—clinical herbalist, holistic health practitioner, and founder of Supernatural Cafe—to see what ingredients she’s leaning on for physical and mental support right now.
“Getting enough sleep and mental rest (like meditation and laughter), staying really warm, and spending some time in the sun can all help,” Robinett tells me over the phone. She also encourages eating tons of vegetables, healthy fats, superfoods, and hot and spicy foods; and watching your intake of caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, and sugar.
“Too much sugar, of which alcohol and flour are also forms of, reduces our white blood cells’ ability to protect our bodies,” she says. “Processed foods are also a source of sugar, chemicals, and bad fats.”
So while you’re hunkered down, here’s a look at some of Robinett’s go-to, health-focused ingredients—most of which you’ll probably already have in the kitchen.
[Ed note: No diet or ingredient will protect against a virus like COVID-19. The most important thing you can do right now is follow the CDC’s health advice: wash your hands, keep them away from your face, and stay home if you can.
Why they’re good: “The gut is our first line of defense, internally,” says Robinett, responsible for protecting and balancing our immune systems. Eating naturally probiotic-rich foods—like kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso—can boost the amount of good bacteria in our guts and help us ward off pathogens and disease.
How to use them: We love a comforting miso curry—heavy on the miso. And this unassuming tofu stew harbors half a cup of kimchi! Bonus points for the ginger and gochujang, but more on those kids later.
Why it’s good: This humble, pungent root is nature’s multivitamin: It’s full of magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium. Ginger also acts as an antiviral and antibacterial, and it’s packed with antioxidants.
How to use it: “My favorite way to use ginger is to blend it with water and strain it into little immunity shots that you can take multiple times a day,” says Robinett. But if that sounds like too much of a throat burner, try covering your steamed veggies in a punchy dressing or bathing your chicken in this zesty marinade. (This probably doesn’t count, but we’ll just leave these chewy ginger cookies here, too.)
Why it’s good: This spicy red dust can increase circulation—ensuring our blood delivers appropriate nutrients to all parts of the body. (You can think of cayenne like immunity’s accelerator pedal.) “It’s also a painkiller,” says Robinett. “So if you have a sore throat, cayenne, as rough as that sounds, can be really soothing.”
How to use it: Add a pinch to hot lemon water (if you’re hardcore), lace your quick tomato soup with cayenne, or give your roasted broccoli a good dusting. We’ve got options, people!
Things to note: The good news is that “all chilis and hot spices are helpful in boosting immunity,” says Robinett. The bad news is that eating a fistful of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos doesn’t count (obviously we asked).
Why it’s good: Social distancing: a great time to go heavy on the garlic. Beyond adding a powerful zing to our favorite dishes, when crushed, sliced, and munched on, garlic releases a sulphurous compound that can boost the disease-fighting response of our white blood cells. Meaning, when they come into contact with cold and flu-causing microbes, they’re ready to rumble.
How to use it: “Garlic is really easy to add to so many of our foods,” says Robinett. “You can use it in chimichurri, salad dressings, guacamole, or pesto.” Also, this tangy garlic vinegar is your best weapon. It will, at the very least, slay your worries.
Things to note: Same as ginger, garlic boosts your immunity best when it’s consumed raw. (Like in the vampire movies, duh!) But if that is simply too much for you to get behind, Robinett concedes that “it’s so delicious roasted, too.”
Why it’s good: Scientifically, cacao “is full of antioxidants,” which help our immune cells seek and destroy pollutants, free radicals, and other unwelcome viruses (you know who you are). “It also makes you happy,” says Robinett. “And we all need a little fun and indulgence right now.”
How to use it: Sip on a caffeine-free, frothy cacao latte. (This is also a great vessel for that pinch of cayenne you’ve “been meaning to try.”) Otherwise, a batch of chocolate-avocado fridge fudge is both cathartic to make and fun to say.
Things to note: “I’m a proponent of eating basically no sugar when you’re trying to ward something off,” says Robinett. So the darker your chocolate, the better: “Generally speaking, the higher the percentage of cacao, the less sugar there is in the bar.”
Why they’re good: Do we even have to answer this? Robinett says you should be eating vegetables like it’s your job. Dark, leafy greens—like broccoli, kale, cabbage, and collards—and red peppers are all packed with vitamin C, among a host of other nutrients. “And the sulphurous veggies, like leeks, onions, and alliums, are really good for immunity,” says Robinett.
How to use them: Sneak eight onions into this French-ish version of the classic soup, make fall-apart caramelized cabbage for, uh, one, or lay your cod on a bed of vibrant romesco.
Things to note: “To be honest, any vegetable is your friend right now,” says Robinett. “Just don’t deep fry it”..if you can resist.
WHAT SHOULD I EAT TODAY
Need something quick for those days when you’re on the go? Try these easy-to-make smoothie recipes for a grab-and-go breakfast or a snack in between meals.
YOGURT AND BERRY SMOOTHIE
Total Time: 5 minutes
Skill Level: Easy
This recipe is delicious and simple to make. It takes less than five minutes to blend frozen or fresh fruit and Greek yogurt. Add your choice of beverage (coconut water, milk, juice, soy milk, or whatever you like) to the mixture for creamy goodness.
Since this recipe makes two servings, you can freeze one of them overnight and thaw it during the day to enjoy a refreshing treat during the day.
PEANUT BUTTER/BANANA SMOOTHIE
This ideal on-the-go snack is the perfect blend of frozen bananas, soy milk, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, honey, and ice cubes that leaves you thinking you are drinking a milkshake.
For an early morning boost, keep this mixture in a tightly sealed container. For an afternoon snack, make this recipe the previous night and freeze it. Take it out in the morning, and it will be ready to eat around 3 pm for a perfect afternoon snack.
For additional protein, add one scoop of vanilla or chocolate protein powder.
Breakfast is an important meal. Hunger can prevent you from fully concentrating on morning tasks before lunch. If time is an issue, you may appreciate these easy recipes as you rush to get out the door.
GARDEN EGG SALAD
Total Time: 25 minutes
Skill Level: Easy
Egg salad doesn’t have to be a calorie-dense meal. With a few substitutions, you can generate a lighter take on the traditional egg salad recipe. Divide your egg salad over lettuce leaves, place sprouts over the egg salad, and roll it up with the lettuce leaves for a great hand-held meal on the go.
TOMATO TOAST AND MACADAMIA RICOTTA
Total Time: 15-20 minutes
Skill Level: Easy
This vegan classic breakfast sandwich swaps out mayo for a rich, fluffy mixture of garlic, nuts, miso paste, and nutritional yeast on whole-grain bread. Slices of ripe tomatoes are layered over the paste. For added color, use yellow and red heirloom tomatoes.
The sandwich can be seasoned using shiso, basil, kosher salt, or cracked black pepper. This can be an open-faced sandwich.
Total Time: 5 minutes
Skill Level: Easy
This parfait is the easiest, healthiest breakfast meal available, and you can prep it ahead of time. It layers classic fruit with a yogurt parfait. You can make it with your choice of toppings. While fresh is always best, frozen will still provide you with a great, easy breakfast meal.
Want to spice up your lunch or are tired of the usual? We often don’t have much time to make that perfectly balanced lunchtime meal, causing us to grab something close to where we work.
Unfortunately, that may not be the healthiest option, and we quickly regret our decision. Yet, we don’t have to with these easy recipes.
THAI CURRY NOODLES (VEGGIE) WITH CHICKEN
Total Time: 40 minutes
Skill Level: Easy
While they look like noodles, they are not. You may think this vegetable-heavy dish is bland, but thanks to the red curry paste, cashews, and almond butter, the taste is kicked up a notch in flavor. You will love this healthy, elevated dish.
This dish is also great for Whole30 diets.
KIMCHI AND EGG RICE BOWL
Total Time: 20 minutes (10 minutes for prep and 10 to cook)
Skill Level: Easy
This quick 20-minute meal extracts the maximum flavor possible. Before eating the meal, break the yolk and mix it with your rice. The richness pairs beautifully with a spicy yet vinegary kimchi sauce.
Total Time: 35 minutes (20 minutes for prep and 15 to cook)
Skill Level: Easy
Some people have an issue with healthy burgers. They are either crumbly and difficult to eat, dry, hard, or a combination of any of the three. This burger contains feta and spinach stuffing to make the burger very juicy. It is especially satisfying when topped with lemon and dill yogurt sauces.
GRILLED VEGETABLE AND HUMMUS WRAP
Total Time: 23 minutes (15 minutes for prep and 8 to cook)
Skill Level: Easy
For this recipe, you can purchase store-bought hummus, fresh vegetables, and a whole-wheat wrap to roll everything up. It makes an easy, portable lunch that you can make in a fraction of the time.
Do you regularly work late? Do the kids have so many extracurricular activities that it is hard to make a healthy, well-balanced meal? We offer some quick, easy recipes for a healthy dinner all in about thirty minutes.
CAJUN CABBAGE SKILLET
Total Time: 35 minutes
Skill Level: Easy
This recipe is made in a skillet and comes together quickly. It is the perfect weeknight option since it is so quick and easy. Spicy andouille sausages can provide heat, but any sausage works equally well. Cooking this dish at medium-high heat will allow the vegetables and sausage to caramelize in a short duration.
Healthy Foods to Eat Every Day
1. Lean protein
People need protein for healthy growth and development and to maintain muscle mass.
Eating protein at each meal can help balance blood sugar levels and avoid the spikes that may happen when eating carbohydrates on their own. This approach can help people maintain their energy levels and concentration.
The amount of protein a person needs depends on factors such as their sex, age, and weight. Additionally, protein requirement varies according to how much and what type of activity the person does and if they are pregnant or nursing.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that most people in the U.S. eat enough protein but need to select leaner varieties of meat and poultry and increase the variety of protein foods they eat, choosing meats less often.
According to the USDA, adults need 5–7 ounces (oz) of protein each day. The following are examples of common healthy protein foods and their protein content:
- 1 sandwich slice of turkey = 1 oz
- 1 small chicken breast = 3 oz
- 1 can of tuna, drained = 3–4 oz
- 1 salmon steak = 4–6 oz
- 1 egg = 1 oz
- 1 tablespoon of peanut butter = 1 oz
- 1 cup of lentil soup = 2 oz
- 1 soy or bean burger patty = 2 oz
- one-quarter of a cup of tofu = 2 oz
People should try to vary their protein sources to consume a wide variety of amino acids and other essential nutrients.
2. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables contain sulfurous compounds called glucosinolates. These are beneficial to health.
According to one 2020 review, glucosinolates regulate cell pathways and genes and may have anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects.
The compounds may also be beneficial for treating and preventing metabolic syndrome, but scientists need to conduct more research to prove this.
The following is a list of cruciferous vegetables that people can aim to eat every day:
- broccoli sprouts
- Brussels sprouts
Also, as well as sulfur compounds, cruciferous vegetables are a rich source of fiber and many essential vitamins and minerals.
Leafy greens such as arugula and watercress also contain beneficial sulfur compounds.
3. Different colored vegetables
Health experts including the American Heart Association (AHA) recognize the Mediterranean diet as one of the healthiest ways to eat.
Diets that emphasize vegetables, such as plant-based diets and the Mediterranean diet, can help lower the risk of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Eating a range of different colored vegetables every day helps ensure an intake of a wide range of phytonutrients, which are beneficial plant compounds.
The USDA’s MyPlate resource recommends that adults eat 2–4 cups of vegetables per day depending on their sex, age, weight, and activity levels.
The USDA also advises that people eat different colored plant foods, including leafy greens, beans, and lentils.
Consuming berries can help people achieve some of their daily nutrient goals.
For example, one 2015 study suggested that eating a 100-gram portion of raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries could provide more than 50% of someone’s daily requirement for manganese, vitamins such as vitamin C and folate, and phytochemicals.
Berries are excellent sources of bioactive compounds such as phenolic acids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. Because these compounds act as antioxidants, they may help prevent cardiovascular disease and lower the risk of some cancers.
Some berries to eat every day include the following:
Fresh or frozen berries are better than dried types, which only have 20% as many phytonutrients.
Research indicates that eating nuts every day can be beneficial for health.
For example, a 2019 prospective study involving over 16,217 adults with diabetes found that people who ate 5 or more servings of nuts each week had a lower risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and mortality than those who ate fewer than 1 serving of nuts per month.
Specifically, tree nuts were more beneficial than peanuts in preventing chronic conditions.
One 2020 study suggested that some people may be reluctant to eat nuts because of their high fat content.
However, the authors pointed out that nuts are nutrient dense foods that do not have an adverse effect on body weight. Indeed, when they replace other less healthy foods in the diet, they may help reduce body weight.
Some people are unable to eat nuts because of an allergy. For those who can eat nuts, choosing plain, unflavored, and unsalted nuts is a healthy option. All nuts contain essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and zinc.
Brazil nuts are one of the best dietary sources of the mineral selenium, with a single nut providing 95.8 micrograms (mcg). This is significantly more than the daily adult requirement of 55 mcg.