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Climb Michi's Ladder


Michi's Ladder is a guideline for healthy nutrition. The higher up on the list you eat, the better off you'll be. We've also provided details as to whether these foods are good sources of protein (P), carbohydrates (C), or fat (F). You'll notice that tiers 4 and 5 don't contain this information—that's because these foods aren't healthy, so you shouldn't look to them for nutrition. They're "treats." Finally, if a food has an asterisk (*) before it, that means we consider it a nutrient-rich superfood.

Note on frying: Foods should be eaten raw, steamed, grilled, poached, baked, or broiled. Frying automatically drops even the best foods into tier 5.

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Tier 1: The Pious Tier

 These foods should make up the bulk of your diet. You'd be hard-pressed to overeat these  foods. They're also great choices to add if you're not feeling full on your regular eating plan.

  • Anchovies, fresh PF
  • Apples, with skin C
  • Apricots C
  • Artichokes (no sauce) PC
  • Arugula C
  • Asparagus C
  • *Beets C
  • Berries, misc. C
  • *Blueberries C
  • Bok choy C
  • Boysenberries C
  • *Broccoli C
  • Broths, veggie, chicken, etc. low-sodium FC
  • Brussels sprouts C
  • *Cabbage C
  • Carrots C
  • Cauliflower C
  • Celery C
  • Chard C
  • Cherries C
  • Citrus, misc. C
  • Collard greens C
  • Cucumbers C
  • Egg whites P
  • Endive C
  • Eggplant C
  • *Garlic C
  • Ginger C
  • *Grapefruit C
  • Grapes C
  • Herbs
  • *Kale C
  • Kiwifruit C
  • *Lemon C
  • Lettuce (not iceberg) C
  • Lime C
  • Melon C
  • Mexican hot sauce (such as Tabasco) 
  • Mushrooms C
  • Mustard C
  • Nectarines C
  • Onions C
  • Oranges C
  • Peaches C
  • Pears, with skin C
  • Peppers C
  • Pineapples C
  • Plums C
  • Pomegranates C
  • Radishes C
  • Raspberries C
  • *Salmon, wild-caught, Alaska PF
  • Salsa, natural, no sugar or oil C
  • *Sardines, fresh or in spring water PF
  • Seaweed C
  • Snap peas PC
  • Spices
  • *Spinach PC
  • Squash C
  • Strawberries C
  • String beans PC
  • *Tea, green or black, no sugar
  • Tomatoes C
  • *Vinegar
  • *Water, flat or sparkling
  • Yams C
  • Yogurt, nonfat or low-fat, plain PC
  • Zucchini C

Tier 2: The Happy Tier

 More essential, nutritious foods to fill your plate. Plenty of super foods here, too, but exercise a  little restraint. They can be more caloric and/or less beneficial than items in the Pious Tier, so  it's possible to overindulge.

  • Amaranth PC
  • Apples, skinless C
  • Applesauce, no sugar added C
  • *Avocados F
  • Bananas C
  • Barley C
  • Beans PCF
  • Buffalo (bison) P
  • *Chai seeds PC
  • Chicken breast, boneless, skinless P
  • Chickpeas PC
  • Coconut meat F
  • Coconut water, plain C
  • Coffee, black 
  • Corn on the cob C
  • Cottage cheese, low-fat PF
  • Cream cheese, nonfat or low-fat P
  • Dates C
  • Eggs, whole PF
  • Figs C
  • Fish (other than fresh anchovies, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, fresh sardines, or water-packed sardines) PF
  • *Flaxseed F
  • Fruit, dried C
  • Granola, raw, no sugar PFC
  • *Hempseed F
  • Hummus PFC
  • Juice, fresh-squeezed w/ pulp, no sugar C
  • Lentils PFC
  • Mangoes C
  • Milk, nonfat, low-fat PC
  • Muesli, raw, no sugar PFC
  • Nut butters, raw PF
  • *Nuts, raw PF
  • Oatmeal, old-fashioned, or steel-cut, unflavored, no sugar PC
  • *Olive oil F
  • Olives F
  • Papayas C
  • Peas PC
  • Plantains(not fried) C
  • Popcorn, plain air-popped FC
  • Potatoes, baked or boiled C
  • Prunes C
  • *Quinoa PC
  • Raisins C
  • Refried beans, nonfat PC
  • Rice, black or brown C
  • *Seeds, raw PF
  • Seitan PFC
  • Shellfish, including shrimp P
  • Spelt PC
  • Squid PF
  • Sushi, nigiri and sashimi (no rolls) PFC
  • Sweet potatoes C
  • Tahini PF
  • Tempeh PFC
  • Tofu PFC
  • Tomato sauce, no sugar C
  • Tuna, albacore PF
  • Turkey breast, boneless, skinless P
  • Venison P
  • Yams C

Tier 3: The Swiss Tier

 Consider these foods neutrally beneficial. They can serve a purpose in a healthy diet, but they  don't need to be staples. Don't eat too much of them, because more from tier 3 means less from  tiers 1 and 2.

  • Almond milk PFC
  • Bagels, whole-grain C
  • Beef, ground, extra-lean, 95% lean PF
  • Beef, tenderloin, 90 to 93% lean PF
  • Beer C
  • Bread, whole-grain FC
  • Butter F
  • Canadian bacon (nitrate-free) PF
  • Cereal, whole-grain (low sugar) PFC
  • Cheese (low-fat and full fat) PF
  • Crackers (whole-grain) FC
  • Chicken and turkey, ground, 95% lean PF
  • Chicken and turkey, dark meat, skinless PF
  • Chocolate, dark FC
  • Coconut milk, canned F
  • Coffeehouse drinks (latte or cappuccino, no syrups or sweeteners) C
  • Couscous PFC
  • Crackers, whole-grain FC
  • Flour, whole-grain (wheat, buckwheat, rice, etc.) C
  • Flour, "alternative" (coconut, almond, quinoa, etc.) PFC
  • Ham (nitrate-free) P
  • Honey C
  • Jerky, turkey (nitrate-free) P
  • Ketchup C
  • Lettuce, iceberg C
  • Louisiana-style hot sauce 
  • Lunch meat, lean, low-sodium (nitrate-free) P
  • Maple syrup, pure C
  • Mayonnaise, organic F
  • Molasses C
  • Pancakes, buckwheat C
  • Pasta, whole-grain C
  • Pickles C
  • Pork tenderloin PF
  • Rice cakes C
  • Rice milk C
  • Rice, white C
  • Sauerkraut C
  • Sausage, nitrate-free, low-sodium PF
  • Soy milk PFC
  • Soy nuts PFC
  • Soy sauce 
  • Stevia 
  • Sugar alcohols (anything ending in –tol) C
  • Sunflower oil F
  • Sushi, rolls (nothing fried) PFC
  • Tortillas, whole wheat or corn FC
  • Tuna, canned PF
  • Turkey bacon (nitrate-free) PF
  • Veal PF
  • Veggie patty PFC
  • Wine (red) C
  • Wine (white) C

Tier 4: The Dodgy Tier

 Not much good about these foods, but in moderation, they shouldn't be deal-breakers. You may  notice how many American staples populate this tier. Maybe that's part of the reason the U.S.  has become such a chubby nation.

  • Applesauce (sugar added) 
  • Bacon 
  • Bagels, refined-flour 
  • Beef, ground, less than 80% lean 
  • Bread, refined flour 
  • Broths, full-sodium 
  • Canadian bacon 
  • Duck, boneless, skinless 
  • Fowl, with skin 
  • Frozen fruit bar 
  • Fruit, dried, sugar added 
  • Ham 
  • Jam or marmalade, no sugar added 
  • Jerky (beef, pork, or venison) 
  • Lamb 
  • Lasagna 
  • Macaroni and cheese 
  • Meat loaf 
  • Nut butters, processed, roasted, or with additives 
  • Nuts, salted or roasted 
  • Oatmeal, flavored and/or instant 
  • Pancakes 
  • Pasta, refined-flour 
  • Pizza (from restaurant) 
  • Pretzels 
  • Sauce, processed (steak, etc.) 
  • Sausage 
  • Sports drinks (Tier 2, if playing sports) 
  • Tortillas, refined-flour 
  • Yogurt, frozen 

Tier 5: The Newburg Tier

 Named in honor of the heart attack-inducing lobster dish, this tier is filled with foods that can  make your health—not to mention your diet—take a turn for the worse. Avoid these foods as  best you can.

  • Alcohol, hard liquor 
  • Artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, saccharine, etc.) 
  • Baked beans, refined-flour 
  • "Breaded" foods 
  • Candy 
  • Cake 
  • Canola oil 
  • Cereal, processed, with sugar 
  • Chicken, buffalo wings, nuggets, breaded tenders 
  • Chips 
  • Chocolate, milk or white 
  • Coffee-house drinks (even the "skinny" ones) 
  • Cookies 
  • Crackers, refined-flour 
  • Creamed veggies 
  • Creamer (non-dairy) 
  • Croutons 
  • Doughnuts 
  • Energy drinks 
  • Fish (fried) 
  • Flour, refined 
  • French fries 
  • Fried anything 
  • Graham crackers 
  • Gravy 
  • Hamburger (fast-food) 
  • High fructose corn syrup 
  • Hot dogs 
  • Hydrogenated fats (and foods that contain them, like processed baked goods) 
  • Ice cream (even sugar-free and fat-free) 
  • Jell-O 
  • Jellies and jams with added sugar 
  • Juice, from concentrate and/or with sugar added 
  • Lobster Newburg 
  • Lunch meat, processed (bologna, salami, etc.) 
  • Margarine 
  • Meat or poultry any below 85% lean 
  • Milk (cream of half-and-half) 
  • Muffins 
  • Nachos 
  • Onion rings, fried, breaded 
  • Pastries 
  • Pies 
  • Popcorn, w/ salt and butter 
  • Pudding 
  • Refried beans, w/ lard 
  • Salad dressing, bottled or commercial 
  • Sherbert 
  • Soft drinks, diet (read the studies) 
  • Soybean oil 
  • Sugar, refined 
  • Sweet-and-sour-sauce 
  • Syrup, refined 
  • Tater tots 

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