Chocolate ice cream and deep-dish pizza may be more appealing than kale and almonds, but we usually feel bloated and sluggish after eating fatty, greasy foods.
What about foods that are both yummy and make us feel happier and more energetic?
In a recent interview in the blog Well + Good, Siggi Hilmarsson, founder of Siggi's Icelandic yogurt, talked about his favorite indulgences like dark chocolate said whole milk, saying, “I like things that make you feel good an hour after you’ve eaten them."
That's a brilliant concept.
Feeling good after eating is behavioral, biological, and depends on our associations or food “memories,” says Madelyn Fernstrom, TODAY health and nutrition editor. “We are hard wired to enjoy more palatable foods,” said Fernstrom. “My mantra is there are no bad foods, just bad portions.”
Foods that are high in carbs provide a lot of satisfaction because they raise our serotonin, the feel-good chemical,” said New York nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D. and author of "Read It before You Eat It."
“There’s the part of us that wants to have the carbs, but then rethink it because it’s high in calories. The ideal compromise is picking the right food in a group, like whole grain carbs, so we can feel good about it.”
So, here are a few super foods that you can enjoy while eating and — bonus! —make you feel great afterwards.
Suggested serving size: one whole egg.“Eggs provide high quality protein. They’re filling, delicious, and studies have shown that eggs can help you feel full when you include them in your meals versus carbohydrate-rich —like starchy, or sweet — meals," said nutritionist Elisa Zied, R.D., New York.
Suggested serving size: ½ cup to 1 cup. “Fruit is nature’s candy, like fresh apples and fresh berries,” said Fernstrom. “These are two things that people love, because they have a lot of water, stimulate taste buds, and are easily digestible.”
3. Canned tuna (white or light)
Suggested serving size: 3 ounces, about one small can or half of a larger can.
“Canned tuna is a source of high quality protein that can fill you up and help keep blood sugar levels steady with omega-3-fatty acids,” said Zied. “Regular fish intake helps preserve body proteins—and that keeps you feeling strong and energized. Regular fish intake is also linked with lower risk of depression.”
4. Chicken soup
Suggested serving size: 8-12 ounces. “People always feel good after eating chicken soup,” said Fernstrom. She said people associate ‘feel-good’ foods with the way their mouths feel while eating something creamy or warm, and chicken soup is a perfect example. “It’s the universal warm, healthy food.”
5. Beans and peas, lentils, chickpeas
Suggested serving size: ¼ to ½ cup. “These are rich sources of protein and also pack in complex carbohydrates, mainly in the form of resistant starch,” said Zied. “A study in Public Health Nutrition in 2010 found that moderate intake of legumes, one or two servings weekly, protected menopausal women against severely depressed moods.”
6. Oats and oatmeal
Suggested serving size: ½ cup to 1 cup cooked, or 1-2 packets instant oatmeal with no sodium added.
“Oats provide complex carbohydrates that are slowly digested and provide the brain and entire central nervous system with their key source of fuel,” said Zied. “Carbohydrates also play a key role in creating serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps regulate mood, appetite and sleep.”
Suggested serving size: ¼ of an avocado.
“Avocados are really creamy, and the texture is so inviting. A lot of people don’t realize how healthy they are,” said Taub-Dix. “You can even swap it for butter in some recipes. Or, you can puree avocado and add to salad dressing.”
Suggested serving size: four tablespoons. “Hummus is a great source of protein and fiber, but what are you eating it with?” said Taub-Dix. “If you’re eating hummus with tons of pita bread, that’s a problem. But try dipping jicama, carrots, zucchini strips; it’s a great carrier for veggies.”
Suggested serving size: about 5 ounces. “Some yogurts like Greek yogurt are great sources of calcium, and people— especially kids — love to dip,” said Taub-Dix. “Something like a flavored or Greek yogurt is great for dipping, too.”
10. Nuts and seeds
Suggested serving size: 1 ounce. “Nuts, like almonds, give you that great overall feeling for your taste buds —sweet, crunchy, creamy,” said Taub-Dix. She also recommends adding almond butter in her oatmeal for a creamy boost of protein.
Suggested serving size: 1 cup. “A cup of tea is low-calorie, gives you that comfort, and sometimes, it’s a speed bump to high-calorie foods,” said Taub-Dix. “You could wind up having a lot more calories if you hadn’t had that cup of tea.”