After an indulgent summer of outdoor barbecues and rooftop drinks, it makes sense to look at the cooler weather and routine of fall as a clean start, of sorts—and it’s something nutritionist and founder of Foodtrainers, Lauren Slayton, strongly advocates. “I think summer is the hardest time to eat well,” she tells Domino. “I think the holidays get so much attention. But they’re quick, and lots of people don’t have 20 holiday parties to go to. But in the summer, every day is a party.”
However, there’s a reason so many people struggle to eat better on a daily basis: They find it hard or expensive to do so. Slayton explains, “Clients come in all the time and ask, ‘What should you do for energy? What should you do for hormones?’ But with anything I ask, ‘Are you sleeping, are you drinking water, are you moving?’ We need to get the basics in order.” The basics include a healthy diet, water, sleep, and, of course, exercise.
Says Slayton, “There’s a kind of sexiness around superfoods because it makes people pay attention, but I’m torn on them because they’re just additions on top of an already healthy diet.” In other words, adding goji berries on a diet of fried food isn’t going to help you eat any better—and the superfoods can easily be replaced with common staples you already have in your kitchen, or can just pop out to get at the grocery store. Below, Slayton hacks seven hyped-up superfoods, and tells us how we can all eat healthier without them.
Instead of: goji berries
Goji berries are naturally high in vitamin C… but so are a lot of other things. Slayton explains, “It’s interesting because these superfoods, they have antioxidants and minerals, and goji berries specifically have high levels of vitamin C. But you can get that from strawberries or oranges or whatever.”
However, if you’re a male, Slayton explains, “Goji berries are actually a known aphrodisiac for men, so it might make more sense for the man in your life.” In other words? Your orange should do just fine.
Instead of: chia or hemp seeds
Try: salmon or walnuts
Chia and hemp seeds are great sources of fatty acids, and according to Slayton, belong in the same category. “Omega-3s get a lot of attention, and they should, because they play a crucial role in brain function,” she says. “But if you’re a fish eater, I think that’s a better way to go, since plant-based sources of fatty acids aren’t as well absorbed in our bodies—it’s actually an extra step for your body to digest them.”
Instead of: moringa
Moringa is a plant native to Pakistan, India, and Nepal, thus available only in powdered form in the US. While it does have a slew of vitamins and minerals, Slayton explains, “Most people don’t really know what to do with it, and I like to anyway think of these extras as toppings or condiments.” So, if you want to add some greenery into your diet, kale or spinach would be a better pick.
Instead of: spirulina
Try: grass-fed beef
“Spirulina is an algae, like chlorella—they’re blue and green in color,” says Slayton. ”I would use it as a vegetarian source of iron. If you look at the nutrition profile [of spirulina], what stands out? It has B vitamins, but for the most part, it’s protein and iron. However, you can also get iron in tomato sauce, molasses, beef…so you don’t need the spirulina unless someone is really curious about it.”
Instead of: acai
Try: wild blueberries
“Acai is actually an interesting food in that it’s a berry, but it’s very low in sugar,” explains Slayton—which is why she would recommend it to those with blood sugar problems. However, there’s another fruit she loves more: wild blueberries. “They look almost like little currants, and are frozen,” Slayton explains. “They’re loaded with resveratrol and anthocyanins—the same pigments that give acai its benefits— and are produced in Maine and Canada, so not that far away.” And the best part? You can find them in the frozen fruit aisle at your local grocery store.
Instead of: nutritional yeast
A deactivated form of yeast, nutritional yeast is often described as having a cheesy, nutty, flavor, as well as being a great source of B12. But again, Slayton doesn’t think it’s entirely necessary. She elaborates, “I don’t think someone who is not vegetarian needs nutritional yeast—you can have ricotta and get the same B vitamins. Unless you’re vegan, or really have a restrictive diet, you can get those Bs elsewhere.”
Instead of: bee pollen
Try: green tea
If you think superfoods are too expensive, that’s because they usually are—since they’re not native to the US. One such product? Bee pollen. Slayton explains, “If you watch the process of pollination, there’s no way to do that cheaply. I use bee pollen for my clients because it’s one of the few caffeine-free foods that can improve metabolic rate—but green tea works just as well, just with caffeine. So, when clients who desire weight loss want to get their basics in order, it’s an interesting way to help.”
But again, note the word choice—”help.” “Upgrades come in all types of ways,” says Slayton. “You definitely don’t need 10 superfoods to upgrade your diet.”