Whether you're a vegan, vegetarian or omnivore, it's important to eat a diet that includes a symphony of minimally processed plant foods, according to Sharon Palmer, an award-winning registered dietitian nutritionist, plant-based food and nutrition expert, author and blogger. This includes whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, seeds and nuts.
"The key to health — for people and the planet — is becoming increasingly clear. We need to make a sure-footed return to including plants regularly in our diet," says Palmer. For some, including more of the above in their daily diet (or switching over entirely) can be difficult, Palmer acknowledges. If the goal is weight loss or maintenance, the dietitian suggests starting with pistachios.
"Pistachios offer a multitude of health benefits that can help you maintain a healthy weight," notes Palmer. "The fact that they're extremely versatile, and taste great, makes it easy to include them regularly, if not daily."
Palmer offers these seven tips to achieve or maintain a healthy weight:
Prioritize breakfast. Eating breakfast kickstarts your metabolism and gives you energy and focus to begin your day. Adding pistachios to common breakfast foods, like cereal, toast or oatmeal, can balance your blood sugar levels and prevent energy slumps. Whole, chopped or crushed pistachios can add a satisfying crunch and a flavorful punch of plant-based protein.
Add movement. Just 20-30 minutes of daily physical activity, like a brisk walk, can help you maintain or lose weight. Instead of watching TV before or after dinner, encourage your family to join you for a stroll around the neighborhood. On the weekends, longer walks or hikes are the perfect time to reconnect with loved ones. Luckily, pistachios are lightweight and portable — the perfect snack for refueling after exercise. Keep a bag handy in your car, backpack or purse for a quick pick-me-up.
Start with SMART goals. Sustainable weight loss begins with baby steps. When your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound, you are more likely to achieve them. Try this goal on for size: Replace your usual afternoon snack with one serving of shelled pistachios three times per week for one week. Achieving SMART goals boosts your confidence and these small pistachio wins are packed with protein, B vitamins, healthy fats, potassium and even antioxidants.
Don't skip meals or snacks. Skipping meals can lead to uncontrollable hunger and binge eating. Three to five hours after eating, your blood sugar begins to fall and can leave you feeling fatigued and unfocused. Eating three small to moderate meals, and two to four snacks per day, can keep hunger at bay and keep your energy levels steady. Crack open a handful of pistachios for a quick snack — no preparation required — and you'll be ready to tackle whatever the day throws at you.
Pre-portion pistachios. Did you know there are 49 pistachios in one serving? That's more than any other nut, plus 10 percent of the Daily Value of fiber. Pre-portion pistachios into small bags on Sunday evening and you'll be set for a week of smart snacking. At just 160 calories per serving, pistachios are a nutritious, low-calorie, portable snack that can help you reach your goals.
Get creative with pistachio flour. Pistachio flour is a fun, gluten-free flour alternative that can spice up traditional recipes. Adding ground pistachios to standard crust recipes can boost the fiber and protein content of your favorite dishes. Try adding pistachio flour to Greek yogurt, along with freshly chopped garlic and lemon zest for a tangy, protein-rich, savory dip.
Swap your nighttime snack. When hunger strikes late at night, it's easy to reach for indulgent foods. Swap your typical nighttime snack of cookies, candies, pizza or ice cream for a more balanced choice: pistachios. Forget willpower and keep a pre-portioned bag of pistachios handy for when you need it the most.
Whether you have a little or a lot of extra weight to shed, adding pistachios to the mix has helped many people lose weight and improve overall health, adds Palmer.