These picks deserve their healthy halo.

Before you go eliminating full food groups for your New Year's detox, or restricting a healthy ingredient just because one blogger deemed it not "clean", check out these nutritious foods that deserve a spot in your kitchen this year. From healthy proteins to your morning beverage, our choices are packed with benefits and flavor.

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Swirling with misconceptions, soy sometimes gets a bad reputation. But this protein is actually a great choice for more plant-forward eating. "Current research suggests two to four servings of soy foods per day can have positive health benefits, such as lowering LDL cholesterol and improving bone health," says Assistant Nutrition Editor, Jamie Vespa, "Soy also contains all nine essential amino acids, making it nutritionally equivalent to animal protein." When shopping, avoid processed soy products like meat alternatives, and instead opt for wholesome choices like tofu or tempeh.

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Most of us start the morning with a cup of coffee, but plenty of the population also chooses to eliminate it as their New Year's resolution. While keeping your caffeine consumption in check is an admirable effort, you don't need to give up your daily cup of Joe to be healthy (unless your doctor says to!) Studies have found that drinking coffee may be linked to a decrease in the risk for stroke and heart failure, plus it's rich in antioxidants. So now you can really savor your morning cup of coffee, knowing you're doing your body well.


Don't take this as an excuse to clean out your sweets drawer, but eliminating sugar entirely from your diet isn't necessary. Just like most things, moderation is key. Sugar is critical for some aspects of baking and cooking, balancing flavors, and helping with texture for recipes. The main way to keep your sugar in check is to focus on what type of sugar you're consuming. Added sugars, like in candy or soda, should be limited when possible. But natural sugars, like those found in fruit or dairy, are also paired with nutrients like fiber and vitamins, making them a much healthier choice.

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If the word 'seafood' brings to mind a can of tuna, then it's time to start eating more fish. Barton Seaver, chef and director of Harvard's Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative, wants you to branch out from the most commonly consumed seafoods (salmon, shrimp, and tuna) and instead focus on other varieties for a more sustainable system. "When we make choices based on culinary character—rather than just on species—we diversify the marketplace." said Seaver during an interview in Cooking Light's January/February issue, "And we create an inherently more sustainable economy." Besides being a great environmental choice, seafood is also good for you. Fatty fishes have Omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to reduced blood pressure and triglycerides levels. For more seafood-based advice and ideas, check out Seaver's new column premiering in Cooking Light's March issue.