Foods That Are Healthier Than You Think

These 20 foods might surprise you with their stealthy health benefits, from avocados to spaghetti and meatballs.

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Avocado

So it may seem weird for a fruit (yes, avocados are fruits) to contain fat, but avocados are one of the few produce items that do. Their heart-protecting monounsaturated fats are actually one of the things that make them so healthy. Eating these green guys can help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke — so go ahead and have some of that guacamole.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Thanks to the iron and protein from the beef, lycopene from the tomato sauce and energy-producing carbs from the pasta, this dish is a healthy trifecta. If you stick to modest portions and lean beef, you can enjoy its benefits without overdoing it. Limit yourself to three ounces of meat and a cup of cooked pasta per serving. Pump up the health benefits by using whole-wheat pasta and adding mushrooms to the meatballs to add fiber and cut fat.

Get the Recipe: Lighter Spaghetti and Meatballs

Bananas

Often bashed for their high sugar and carb content, bananas are a ridiculously healthy fruit that everyone can enjoy. A small banana has the same calories, carbs and fiber as an apple. They also come packed with vitamins C and B6 and good-for-your-heart potassium. Try slicing and baking them for a sweet snack.

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter may indeed contain fat, but 30 percent of your daily calories should come from healthy fats, for which peanut butter is a great choice. The nutty spread is also a good way to get protein, fiber and vitamin E. The same goes for whole peanuts or nuts such as almonds and walnuts — they're a great way to get your daily dose of healthy fats.

Coffee

Along with adding a little pep to your step, coffee is teeming with antioxidants. Research has linked drinking the brewed beverage to a decreased risk of type-2 diabetes and improved mental health as you age. 

Corn

Some folks frown on corn because it's a starchy vegetable. Well, it is starchy — because it's actually a grain! One cup of corn kernels has 5 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber (that's more than 25 percent of the daily recommendation) and energy-producing B-vitamins. You can also eat corn in a wide variety of ways — polenta, tortillas and popcorn are all healthy whole-grain options.

Burritos

Burritos can be a healthy choice: When filled with vegetables, rice, beans and small portions of meat, these Tex-Mex treats can cover all your nutrition bases in one tortilla. Opt for 8-inch whole-wheat tortillas and lay off the sour cream and loads of cheese to keep the calories and fat in check. White beans, fresh avocado and shredded chicken fill these burritos from Ellie Krieger.

Get the Recipe: Chicken and Bean Burrito Verde

Chicken Thighs

Dark meat chicken has a bad rep for being fatty and artery-clogging, but it's actually the skin you should be avoiding. Dark meat, like avocados, is high in healthy monounsaturated fats. Thighs are also more affordable than skinless chicken breasts, so they're an all-around smart addition to your weeknight dinner routine. Ree Drummond simmers chicken thighs in a homemade sauce before adding to rigatoni.

Get the Recipe: Rigatoni with Chicken Thighs

Eggs

Eggs do contain some cholesterol, but that doesn't mean they're a total no-no. According to the American Egg Board, healthy individuals can eat up to two eggs per day without significantly affecting blood cholesterol levels. Eggs are also full of vitamins A, D and the antioxidant lutein. Don't skip the yolks; there's just as much protein there as in the whites.

Potatoes

Yet another veggie shunned for its starch content, potatoes are a nutrition powerhouse! A medium potato has 165 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 10 percent of your daily iron and 70 percent of your daily vitamin C needs.

Canned Tuna

Don’t count out this convenient, affordable and protein-packed seafood option. Tuna also contains those all-important omega-3 fats that benefit skin, blood and nerves. If you’re concerned about the mercury, choose the lower mercury chunk light variety. 

Frozen Fruit

It’s a common misconception that frozen fruit falls short compared to fresh. Frozen fruits are harvested and packed at the peak of freshness, and freezing helps retain all those nutrients we love. Enjoy frozen fruit as a snack, stirred into oatmeal or blended into smoothies.

Get the Recipe: Frozen Fruit Smoothies

Pizza

Pizza lovers rejoice! The basic elements of pizza make for healthy eats but can often be overshadowed by inflated portions and gobs of grease. The most important key to healthy pizza is making your own. Less cheese, fresh vegetables and a crust made from scratch. 

Get the Recipe: Healthy Spinach and Ricotta Pizza

Nuts

Many folks shy away from these crunchy finger foods because they’re high in fat. And with 825 calories per cup, there’s good reason to enjoy in moderation. For sensible and satisfying snacking keep portion of almonds, walnuts, cashews and pistachios to about ¼ cup.  

Raisins

Dried fruits like raisins are a concentrated source of flavor and nutrients, including fiber and iron. The natural sweetness of raisins makes them popular for both kids and grownups. And at 85 calories per ounce (about 60 raisins), they can easily fit into a healthy eating plan.

Get the Recipe: Kids Can Make: Healthy Cinnamon-Raisin Soft Pretzels

Buttery Spreads

Buttery spreads offer a replacement for butter with much less of those unhealthy saturated fats. While buttery spread fans still need to be mindful of portions to keep the calories under control, spreadable options are often fortified with other beneficial ingredients like omega-3 fats and heart healthy plant sterols. Enjoy for every day uses such as toast, sautéed vegetables and melted and drizzled over popcorn. 

Bread

There’s a broad spectrum of breads on the market, so be selective and seek out the healthiest kinds. Lean towards whole grain and bakery fresh loaves of bread with less preservatives. Enjoy bread as part of balanced meals along with lean protein and healthy fats such as avocado toast and grilled chicken sandwiches. 

Get the Recipe: Avocado Toasts

Cheese

It’s no mystery that cheese can be high in calories and unhealthy fats, but it also offers bone building calcium. Portion controlled pieces of cheese count towards the recommended 3 daily servings of dairy. Choose low fat and lower calorie varieties such as Swiss, goat cheese and part-skim mozzarella.

Beef

Lean cuts of beef don’t get the love they deserve. Beef does contain some saturated fat, but about half of the fats found in beef are the healthy monounsaturated kind. Beef also offers important minerals like iron, zinc and selenium. Enjoy 3 to 4 ounce portions of beef on salads, sandwiches or paired with sautéed veggies and whole grains like brown rice for a well-balanced dinner.

Get the Recipe: Beef Stir-Fry

Seltzer

Soda pop may be a no-no, but calorie-free seltzer is certainly healthier than you thought. Stay hydrated with sparkly effervescence by itself, or mixed with tea or 100% fruit juice.

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