Best of Healthy Eats: Top Posts of 2009

We're counting down our 15 most popular posts of 2009.

We covered everything from apples to zucchini this year, with a lot of healthy eating ideas in between. We're counting down our 15 most popular posts this year.

Snacks are an important part of any healthy eating plan, but don't use them as an excuse to start nibbling cookies all day. Keep some of these options handy to fend off any between-meal stomach grumbling.

Veggie protein, fiber, antioxidants -- what's not to love about beans? Reader Deborah suggests adding baking powder to the water when soaking dry beans overnight to muffle the aftereffects of these "musical fruits." (We hear sea kelp works well, too.)

If you've ever thrown a frozen pizza in the oven on a busy weeknight only to reach for a takeout menu after one bite of soggy crust, this is the post for you. We put four popular brands to the ultimate test: a pair of recent college grads.

Just as eating tons of processed food can dull both your insides and your outsides, certain foods have high concentrations of the nutrients that boost your natural glow. Our picks stirred up a debate over dairy: Some readers claim it has no effect on their skin; others have given it up and swear they've never looked better. We say go with what works best for you.

The "Master Cleanse" (a.k.a. the Lemonade Diet) grabbed headlines in 2009, thanks to a parade of celebs who lost weight downing its maple syrup-lemon juice-water-cayenne pepper combo. As with most fad diets, this one has red flags all over, including a lack of nutrients and a seriously low level of daily calories.

Chipotle does get points for serving free-range animal meats and some locally sourced ingredients. But giant, overstuffed burritos with rivers of sour cream and mountains of cheese? Just say no. Simply skipping the tortilla wrap -- ask for a "burrito bowl" instead -- saves 290 cals. (Wondering what to order and what to avoid at other fast-food joints? Check these tips out.)

Is pork really healthy eats? We heard plenty from both sides of the table when we listed "the other white meat" among our top foods with oomph. (Read our whole take here.)

With the right cuts, ground beef can be just as lean -- if not leaner -- than ground turkey. We've got five reasons to pick up a package next time you're at the store.

Swap the full-fat mayo and oil-heavy dressings for a few tablespoons of flavorful sauce and fresh, seasonal veggies. We like reader Martina's "Mediterranean Style" salad: whole-grain rotini, cucumber, roma tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, black olives, red onions, feta cheese crumbles and Greek dressing.

Many a baked ham hits tables each holiday season. Although ham itself is a lean meat, the double-whammy of sugar and salt gives a one-two punch to a healthy diet. We got lots of reader feedback to add to our own sodium-slashing solutions, but only Jennifer's suggestion covered both pitfalls. "I boil mine in ginger ale, then do the glazing, etc., and bake," she writes. "The ginger ale adds just a touch of sweetness throughout the meat."

There are oodles of delicious ways to prepare eggplant that don't involve frying and adding cheese. Listing them here would require way too much space, so we'll just leave with you a few words: Ratatouille. Babaganoush. Panini. And, yes, even Eggplant Parmesan.

Chicken salad lends itself to almost endless varieties of deliciousness, so why stick with the standard, which usually contains gobs of full-fat mayo? Reader Sara suggests using spicy or dijon mustard instead. Or try Elizabeth's take and "mix fat-free or low-fat lemon yogurt with your chicken salad. I use half lemon yogurt and and half low-fat mayo or Greek yogurt, depending on my mood."

A frou-frou iced coffee drink in a cafe can rack up the fat and calories pretty quickly. Make your own at home or follow our ordering tips -- Your wallet and your waist will thank you. (Skim the post's "Comments" section for more how-tos on cold-brewing your java.)

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Seemingly every week, new research confirms the many benefits of starting your day with a well-balanced meal. Bypass the morning drive-thru with a homemade egg burrito or Chunky Banana Bran Muffins.

We understand hectic schedules. Reader Krikri sums it up perfectly: "Breakfast is hard to skip. Paradoxically, it is also the meal that needs to be done quickly as you rush off to work." Grab-and-go bars are an easy way to jump-start your metabolism -- but beware of the fakers out there. Our faves shun high-fructose corn syrup in favor of whole grains and real fruit.

Everyone went nuts earlier this month when we revealed our preferred peanut butter. What constitutes the perfect jar obviously depends on who's holding the spoon, but if you're searching for suggestions, check out the results of our taste panel.

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