If you’re eating a mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, then you’re probably pretty far ahead of the nutrition curve. But even if you’re hitting your five-a-day, steering clear of the junk food aisle, and are at a healthy weight, there’s still a chance you’re making mistakes with your food choices without even realizing it. Not all foods are created equal even the healthy ones and you might not be getting as many vitamins and nutrients as you believe. In fact, you may inadvertently be loading your body with excess sugar and sodium. We asked top nutrition experts to identify the best and worst foods in every category veggies, fruits, legumes, grains, proteins, dairy, and fats so you can close the gaps on your nutritional needs.
Best veggie: Dark, leafy greens
The best greens are the darkest and richest in color, including spinach, kale, romaine, collards, turnip and mustard greens, and broccolini. "They’re some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that help protect the cells and build the immune system, all for a skinny little calorie level," says Sharon Palmer, RD, a southern California-based registered dietitian. Aim to get between 1½ to 2 cups of these leafy veggies each week. (One way to do it is with the spinach and sweet potato quesadilla recipe in the video above.) Eat them in salads, wraps, or sandwiches, or serve them as a side dish with some lemon and garlic. If you’re not a fan of the bitter taste that comes along with many greens, try infusing them into your smoothies. This masks the flavor while still offering up their nutritional benefits. Or, turn them into chips by mixing in some olive oil and sea salt and heating them in the oven until they’re nice and crispy.