12 foods nutrition experts buy for their own kitchens

Salmon and vegetablesAmericans are on an eating binge. More than one third of adults -- more than 72 million people -- and 17% of children are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's no surprise that the weight-loss industry has become a $59.7 billion business and is expected to grow 2% in 2010, according to Marketdata Enterprises, a market research firm.

For pointers on eating right, we asked dieticians and nutritionists what's stocked in their pantries and refrigerators. Here are their top 12 picks:

Oatmeal starts the day right
Keri Gans, a registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, likes to begin her day with a bowl of oatmeal. "It's filled with fiber that keeps me satiated until lunch," Gans said. "Fiber also helps lower cholesterol levels. I make my oats with nonfat milk, especially for the calcium and Vitamin D for my bones. I also top it with low-fat cottage cheese for the added protein. Without adequate protein in the morning, it's no wonder people are hungry an hour or two after they eat breakfast."

Fundamentals of fruits and vegetables
A healthy diet isn't complete without fruits and vegetables. Jackie Keller, celebrity wellness coach, serves kale, Swiss chard, spinach and collard greens fresh, steamed or stir-fried because "they are a great source of Vitamin C, fiber, lutein and potassium." When it comes to fruits, she'll eat any kind but is gaga for berries, mangoes and tomatoes, all rich in Vitamin C, beta-carotene and fiber. "Dried versions of these fruits are great too," she said, "Just purchase the unsulfured versions, easily found at Trader Joe's."

Make beans a staple
Katherine Farrell, a registered dietician and director of integrative nutrition at Manhattan's Physician Group, said, "I cook one bean a week and use it many different ways. Each week it's a different bean -- lentils, black beans or garbanzo. They are a great source of protein, folate, and have the most fiber of any food source."

Avocado makes a good lunch companion

"There's nothing like a sandwich topped with avocado," said Gans, who is also author of the upcoming The Small Change Diet. "It's high in monounsaturated fats -- helps protect the heart. You just need to be careful of portion size. One of my favorite lunches is 1/4 avocado with hummus and sliced nova topped with tomato and onion on a scooped whole-wheat bagel or whole-wheat toast."

Wild salmon is worth the catch
If you eat fish only once a week, make it salmon, said Jonny Bowden, a Ph.D, CNS, board-certified nutritionist. It's low in calories and high in protein and omega-3 fat, which is good for the heart. But opt for wild salmon over farmed salmon if you can. "It's the difference between a BMW and a Hyundai," he explained. "Wild salmon get their red color from a natural diet of crustaceans and krill, food sources that are rich in antioxidants. The way farm raised salmon get their color is from a color wheel. They are fed grains and kept in huge confined pens, much like cattle. Salmon don't eat grain, no more than cows do. When you feed any animal a lot of grain, you wind up with omega 6-fat, which is a pro-inflammatory. Wild salmon is full of antioxidants and has a better ratio of omega-3 and omega-6."

Go nuts for nuts

To fuel her through a day full of patients and meetings, Farrell relies on fruits and bags of nuts. "I always have on my desk a bag of almonds or pistachios or some other nut. They're good sources of healthy fat and fiber. They also take the edge off my hunger, so when I come home, I am not so ravenous and can have a 400- to 500-calorie dinner."

Eggs pack a punch
"One of nature's great accomplishments," said Bowden, author of 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. "It's the perfect food. There are five different ways to measure protein and in every one of them, eggs score in the top 2. It is absolutely imperative that you eat the yolk. There is tremendous value in the yolk -- protein, powerful carotenoids for the eyes, and choline for the brains. I am big believer in the whole egg. The way they are raised affects quality. Free range is still better than caged. When they go about pecking at their natural diet of worms and insects, you're getting a lot of omega-3 in the eggs. There are omega-3 enriched eggs, but natural omega-3 is better."

Tomato sauce a pantry must
"Many nights I can't find anything to eat that the entire family will agree on that is flavor-filled and diverse," said Yvette Rose, creator of the Joulebody Kickstart Food Cleanse. "The one item that I can use for meals inspired by Italy, Puerto Rico, India or almost any culture is tomato sauce. I always keep a fresh can of tomato sauce so I can make low-calorie soups, stews or marinades that are tasty and nutritious. I add onion garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh vegetable and herbs with some beans."

Cuckoo for fat-free cottage cheese
Keller likes to keep cottage cheese around the house, especially the Knudsen's variety, because "it's a good source of protein and calcium." Eat it plain, add it to pasta or puree it to mimic cream cheese.

Cayenne to spice things up
Rose finds that keeping a bottle of cayenne handy is, well, handy. "It is the Auyrvedic belief that if we satisfied each of our taste buds, we would feel full and wouldn't need to continue eating. Most American foods are bland and/or too salty; therefore, after a meal, we feel the need to eat again within a short period of time. Cayenne is very spicy. All the heat you feel after having cayenne takes energy -- and calories -- to produce. According to WHFoods, 'Even sweet red peppers have been found to contain substances that significantly increase thermogenesis [heat production] and oxygen consumption for more than 20 minutes after they are eaten.'"

Grass-fed beef is what's for dinner
If a good steak is what makes you happy, splurge on grass fed beef, urged Bowden. "Grass fed means they walk around and graze on pasture, which is their natural diet. As a result, the meat is higher in omega-3 with CLA [Conjugated Linoleic Acid] and low in omega-6. I know -- it's very expensive. At my Whole Foods, it's about $8.99 a pound. But you don't need to eat meat every day. Michael Pollan made this point: Buy better stuff and less of it."

Hot for hummus
"I love it because it comes in so many varieties, and it goes on everything," said Gans. "I use it instead of mayo for egg salad, instead of cream cheese on my whole-wheat toast with egg whites. I also top my baked potato instead of butter with black bean hummus and low-fat sour cream. Hummus is rich in fiber."
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