18 For ’18
This year, improve your family’s eating habits by adding healthy ingredients to your everyday meals and snacks.
Making the move towards better nutrition doesn’t have to feel like deprivation or punishment. Focus on the foods to eat more of and gradually replace the nutritional no-no’s with nutrient rich, delicious alternatives. Below are 18 of my favorite food enhancement that I have incorporated into my eating plan over the years.
- A few years back, I switched from commercial non-stick sprays to an oil spray pump dispenser. Just add olive oil (or any heart healthy oil, e.g. canola, avocado, grapeseed, or walnut) to the dispenser, pump and lightly spray on your salad, whole grain breads, vegetables for roasting, or muffin pans before baking. This swap is not only healthy, but also cheaper and better for the environment.
- Instead of reaching for potato chips or other fried snacks, go for healthy, yet satisfying nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios or pecans. The trick is to watch your portion size – a reasonable serving size of most shelled nuts is 2 tablespoons, which translates to about 100 calories.
- Ditch foods that are already “presweetened” such as cereals, yogurt and pastries. If you crave a little sweetness, control the amount by adding just 1-2 teaspoons of sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar or jam to a serving of low sugar cereal, plain yogurt or whole wheat toast.
- Cereal bars with nutritious sounding names are often highly processed, high in sugar, and a poor choice for breakfast or a snack. Read labels and look for more “whole food” bars that contain recognizable ingredients such as nuts, fruit and whole grains.
- Make 2018 the year to swap sugar sweetened beverages for refreshing water. If plain tap water is too boring, try sparkling water with citrus slices or add just a splash of 100% fruit juice.
- When it comes to greens, swap nutritionally wimpy iceberg lettuce for nutrient-rich deep dark greens such as kale, chard, spinach, arugula, collard greens or romaine. Dark greens can be used in salads, steamed or sautéed, added to soups and stews, or roasted in the oven.
- Sub in beans and lentils for some of the meat you are eating. A true “super food,” beans are underrated and under-utilized. In fact, beans are such a nutrient powerhouse, they are recognized in two food groups – vegetables and protein. Besides being rich in protein, fiber and a whole host of nutrients, they are extremely affordable and versatile.
- Ditch the fast food milkshakes and instead build your own nutrient-rich smoothie. Simply blend a cup of frozen fruit (e.g. bananas, pineapple, mangos, berries) with 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt and a splash of 100% fruit juice for a protein and nutrient-rich breakfast or snack. Add dark greens, seeds, nut butters, avocado and other nutrient-dense ingredients as desired.
- Switch from white, refined pasta to a more nutrient-rich alternative. There are many good whole grain options on the market, including gluten free varieties such as quinoa, corn or brown rice pasta. Another good option is to try one of the “plus” pastas that incorporate legumes for added protein and fiber (and still look like “white” pasta).
- Years ago, I got rid of white flour and now you will only find whole wheat pastry flour in my canister. The finer texture works well in breads, muffins, cookies and even as a coating for chicken or fish.
- Swap fruit juice for whole fruit. Whole fruit has more fiber, fewer calories and is more satisfying because it takes longer to eat.
- My personal weakness is corn tortilla chips. I have learned to make my own healthful version by starting with whole corn tortillas. I cut the tortillas into triangles or shapes, spray lightly with canola oil, and bake at 400° for about 6-7 minutes. Best of all, there’s no large tempting bag sitting on my pantry shelf!
- Switch from processed fish sticks to omega-3 rich baked salmon. A simple favorite of my family is to lightly spread the top of the salmon with real maple syrup, a sprinkle of smoked paprika, a topping of crushed walnuts and bake 15 minutes in a 400° oven.
- Grow a garden, big or small. A recent study shows that kids who garden are more likely to eat vegetables in college.
- Build a better snack by starting with a fruit or vegetable and adding a protein source. Think apples and peanut butter, hummus and carrots, or Greek yogurt topped with berries.
- Stack a more nutrient dense sandwich. Start with whole grain bread and add layers of vegetables such as dark greens, zucchini slices, roasted eggplant, pepper strips, olives or sliced mushrooms to your favorite sandwich. Try using hummus, pesto or avocado as a replacement for mayo.
- Add more fermented foods to your diet. Emerging research shows that fermented foods help to promote a healthy gut microbiota. Sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, tempeh and kombucha are just a few examples.
- Simply try more new healthy foods this year. I personally need to work on this – it’s been awhile since I have had parsnips, kohlrabi, roasted fennel bulb, papaya or many other interesting foods. We could all use a little nudge to break out of our food ruts!