6 foods you thought weren’t healthy but are

Are you cutting out foods that are actually nutritious? Find out why these six deserve a spot on your plate

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1. Popcorn

“Popcorn counts as being a whole grain, so it’s actually pretty healthy for you,” says Zannat Reza, a registered dietitian based in Toronto. But we’re not talking about movie-style popcorn that’s drenched in butter.  Keep it plain or add healthier toppings such as Parmesan cheese or a pinch of brown sugar and cinnamon. “If you’re adding [the topping] yourself, you have a lot more control over how much you put on,” Reza says.

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chocolate milk

2. Chocolate milk

Great news for chocoholics: Chocolate milk is a healthy way to get your fix. “It basically has the same package of bone-building nutrients that white milk does,” says Reza. 

Yes, chocolate milk is sweet, but its sugar content is comparable to apple juice-and it’s a much healthier choice. “You’re going to get 16 nutrients from the chocolate milk and you might be getting two from the apple juice,” Reza notes. Choose a one-percent brand for a low-fat, nutritious treat.

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3. Steak

Red meat has been banished from the dinner table in the past, but it doesn’t deserve its bad reputation. “As long as it’s a small portion, beef is the best source for nutrients like iron, zinc and B12,” says Reza. She also notes that it’s possible to enjoy beef and control your cholesterol, as long as the cuts of meat are lean and the fat is trimmed.

So go ahead and grill up a juicy steak-just make sure your portion is no bigger than the palm of your hand.

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4. Pasta

If you’ve cut pasta out of your diet, you’re missing out on a healthy (and delicious) meal option. “Pasta is a low G.I. [glycemic index] carbohydrate, so it breaks down slowly in your body and doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels,” says Reza. It’s also a source of folic acid, a B vitamin that’s recommended for women of child-bearing age.

The key to being a healthy pasta eater is to choose your sauce wisely. Go for a tomato-based marinara rather than a creamy alfredo for a lower-fat dish. And control your portion size-one serving is a half cup, but Reza says it’s okay to eat between two to four servings for a meal. Just make sure not to exceed Canada’s Food Guide recommendation of six to seven servings a day of grain products.

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5. Eggs

There’s been some controversy over the healthfulness of eggs, but Reza maintains that they are an economical and nutritious meal choice. One egg contains only 70 calories and is a source of iron, protein and vitamins A, D and B12.

“If you’ve got a previously diagnosed heart health issue then you need to talk to your doctor, but for most people, eating an egg a day is fine,” she says.

For a healthier breakfast, try poached or broiled eggs with toast and fruit rather than fried eggs with bacon and home fries, which add more fat and calories to the meal.

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6. Potatoes

French fries have given potatoes a bad rap, but spud skins are really loaded with nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium and fibre. However, the nutritional value of a potato lies in the way that it’s cooked. “Mashed potatoes are high G.I. carbohydrates, but a baked potato is not,” says Reza. Also, if you eat peeled potatoes, you’re missing out on all those nutrients. Instead of serving fries with dinner, try this Grilled Potato Salad with Gherkins and Mustard, or serve up roasted sweet potatoes for added beta-carotene.

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