Let me begin by saying that despite the fact that it is my birthday week, I have not gained weight. Yes, the week has been filled to the brim with birthday presents, including red velvet cupcakes, Jelly Bellies and chocolate chip cookies, but that doesn’t stop me from eating the things that are healthy in an attempt to balance out the things that aren’t.

Last weekend I went to San Francisco with my boyfriend, Jeff, to see “West Side Story” at the Orpheum Theatre. My parents paid for us to get dinner at this tiny Italian hole-in-the-wall restaurant at the edge between the residential district and the heart of the city. The dinner was great, and the waiting staff must have overheard me talking about my birthday, because our dinner came with a rose and a free tiramisu. It was probably one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had. Jeff made sure to shake every person’s hand on our way out to the point where we were almost late for the musical.

I’m telling you this because when I got back home from San Francisco, I looked up the caloric content of one single serving of tiramisu, and let’s just say I was looking to skip a few meals in the next week. But after a little research, I know that I can still stay healthy even with a few high-caloric slips in my diet. Yes, you still have to make sure you are keeping your calorie count in check, but a few good things can actually outweigh the bad, and there’s a few foods that I had no idea were so good for you. The one I wish to share with everyone today is onion.

I’m sure many of you have watched the film “Shrek” at one point in your life. If you have you’ll remember that Shrek is a (supposedly) mean ogre who eats disgusting things like charred rats on a stick and raw onions. Although in the movie those two foods are pretty much equated to each other in terms of quality, onions are actually very healthy for you and can be used to spice up any dish.

Onions are very filling and nutritious. They are strongly anti-inflammatory and are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. The nutrients they contain the most of are Vitamin C, dietary fiber and manganese. A single serving also contains 2 grams of protein.

It’s not the best choice if you are trying to cut back on sugar or carbohydrates, but those things can also be good for you in small quantities. And the best thing about the onion is that it’s low in calories, with approximately 45 per cup serving, which means you can allocate more calories to your other foods, like tiramisu for dessert, and not feel guilty about it.

Chopped onions go great in everything from omelets to burritos. They’re also great in things like burgers, chili, rice and pizza. Personally, I love grilled — or caramelized — onions and peppers mixed together with an abnormal amount of salt on top. All in all, it’s an extremely versatile food and can be added to almost anything to spice it up a bit, and can add a healthy twang to any meal.

So I guess Shrek did have one thing going for him: good health!