Give (Frozen) Peas a Chance — and Carrots Too

Forget what the foodies and gourmands tell you. Some of the tastiest and healthiest food around is also the least expensive and most ordinary. And you need go no further than the supermarket to find it

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Dwight Eschliman for TIME

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Indeed, chicken is so lean and tasty it can actually redeem a lot of foods that are otherwise dietary bad news. I don't have a problem with tacos, for example, if you do them right. A chicken taco is a better option than beef, and a fish taco is the best choice of all. All the raw ingredients are available in supermarkets, and what you make at home will be much healthier than what you get when you go out.

There's even goodness to be found in some of the supermarket's seemingly most down-market fish and meats: those sold in cans. One great advantage to canning is that it does not affect protein content, making such foods as canned tuna, salmon and chicken excellent sources of nutrition. Canned salmon in particular is as nourishing as if you caught a fresh salmon that afternoon. It's also easy to prepare: you can put it on a salad or serve it with vegetables and have dinner ready in minutes.

Let's also take a moment to celebrate the tuna-salad sandwich, which is to lunch what the '57 Chevy is to cars--basic and brilliant. Sure, there are ways to mess it up, with heaping mounds of mayonnaise and foot-long hoagie rolls. But tuna is loaded with niacin, selenium, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, and a sandwich done lean and right, on whole-wheat bread with lettuce and tomatoes, is comfort food at its finest with little nutritional blowback.

Still, some of these cans are land mines. Plenty of products include flavor enhancers such as sugar, salt and MSG. And there are canned meats that really are nothing but bad news. Vienna sausage is the type of food that keeps us heart surgeons in business. As for hot dogs and luncheon meats like salami and bologna, just don't go there. They're way too high in nitrites and sodium to do you even a bit of good.

Guilty Pleasures

To me, ice cream is a sacred food. When I was a boy, my father would drive me to the local ice cream store on Sundays. We would spend the half-hour car ride talking, and I got to know my dad better through these conversations. It wasn't really about the ice cream; it was about time spent together. I even made the decision to become a doctor in that very ice cream store--something, perhaps, about the sense of well-being I was experiencing. I have used ice cream as a family focal point with my own children, and to this day it is an indicator of an occasion. Ice cream should be in your life too. What's more, it's not even a bad or unhealthy food.

For starters, the protein and calcium in ice cream are great. And some of the ingredients in better ice creams are good for you too, including eggs (yes, eggs, a terrific source of protein and B vitamins and perfectly O.K. if your cholesterol is in check) and tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios. As with most other foods, the problem is often the amount consumed. A serving size is typically half a cup, but that's a rule that's almost always flouted, which is a shame. Overdoing ice cream not only takes its toll on your health but also makes the special commonplace. I often say that no food is so bad for you that you can't have it once--or occasionally.

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