Amanda Nicole RDN
Simply Delicious Ways to Eat Healthier
What if I told you eating healthy could be nutritious, fun, accessible, and still taste delicious. Would you believe me? Well, I’m happy to announce it’s true. With just a few sneaky swaps of common foods, creative approaches to increase vegetable consumption, and easy meal prepping tips, healthy eating can be practical and highly nourishing. Let’s prioritize health by boosting the nutritional value of our meals in a simple, plant-forward way!
Improve your nutrition with these cheeky ingredient swaps. So seamless you won’t even notice them:
Pasta. Replace enriched pasta with whole-wheat to nearly triple the fiber content from 1.8g to 4.5g. To pack a nutritious punch, why not use zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or even a high protein pasta for your next dish? Buon appetito!
Rice. Switch out white rice for brown rice, quinoa, Shirataki rice or noodles, farro, riced cauliflower or broccoli, finely chopped cabbage, whole-wheat couscous, bulgur wheat, or freekeh to increase fiber and protein. Win-win!
Condiments. Commercial versions of condiments like mayonnaise, jam, and pickles can be highly processed and may not contain high amounts of nutrients. Experiment by swapping out mayonnaise for low-fat Greek yogurt or creamy hummus. Sub the jam with lightly mashed fresh berries and pickles with sliced cucumbers.
Animal Fat. When it comes to fats reducing and/or substituting them can make meals more nutritious. Brighten up baked goods while retaining their moisture by cutting the butter, oil, or shortening by half and replacing the other half with unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana, or prune puree. For savory dishes, switch out or reduce butter or shortening with olive oil or smashed avocado.
Sugar. I get it. It’s hard to make baked goods without some sugar. So what can be done? Try reducing the quantity of sugar by a half to a third and sprinkle in spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice to boost the perception of sweetness. For even more depth of flavor, add in flavorings such as vanilla or almond extract.
Milk. Swap out full-fat milk with a fat-free variety for a more heart-healthy option. Or, with the range of plant-based milk options available at your local grocery store these days, go ahead and test out almond, oat, coconut, hazelnut, hemp, soy, and flaxseed milk to see which one you enjoy. If you’re up for it, try making it from scratch.
Meat. Experiment cutting back on the quantity of meat and animal products consumed to increase plant-based protein. This will increase fiber, vitamins, and minerals in your diet and can be more heart-healthy. For meat substitutes with a good amount of protein, explore tofu, seitan, tempeh, and textured vegetable protein (TVP).
Basting liquid & sauces. If a recipe calls for basting your veggies or meat using oil or drippings, switch it out for a little bit of low sodium fat-free vegetable broth, wine, vegetable juice, or fruit juice. Try Primal Kitchen products like the Vodka Sauce, containing cashew butter and avocado oil, for a healthier, dairy-free alternative. Yum!
According to an analysis conducted by the CDC, only 9% of adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables. How can we change that? By nourishing the body and tricking our taste buds! Here are some playful ways to sneak in more greens:
“Add veggies you almost like, to dishes you already love! (10)” If you adore lasagna, try sneaking in a couple of slices of zucchini for some added vitamin A and C, or perhaps a few broccoli florets into your next mac and cheese to boost its antioxidant content. Get creative. The options are endless!
Veggies are a soup's best friend. Soups are a great way to use up all of the veggies wasting away in your crisper drawer. Leeks about to go bad? Add it to your soup. Unused turnips? Throw it in for a vitamin K bonus. You get the gist. Bedeck any soup, canned or homemade, with fresh or frozen veggies to your stomach’s content.
Saucy spaghetti. Making tomato sauce can be an oh-so-sneaky way to add some healthy greens to your meal. Finely chop up zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, yellow squash, or basil to elevate your next sauce. A quick tip for the kiddos, the smaller the chop, the more likely the veggies go undiscovered. Sneaky, sneaky.
RAW-R. There is nothing boring or dull about serving veggies raw, as is. Create a colorful crudité platter with your favorite veggies from broccoli, carrots, celery, cabbage, cherry tomatoes, or cauliflower. Accompany your crisp veggies with a low-fat dip or some of your favorite homemade veggie spread.
Run it through the garden. Load your next salad with as many veggies as possible! Salads are like a blank canvas, so make it an opportunity to experiment. Radishes can add a peppery zing and serve as a good source of potassium, with one cup equaling 270mg or 8% DV.
Veggie’s as vessels. Vegetables can make for an eye-catching nutritious vessel that can be filled to the brim with healthy ingredients. Try stuffing a red or green bell pepper with quinoa and black beans, or enhance your baked spaghetti squash with tomato sauce. For some heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, why not top a halved avocado with tuna or chicken salad. Have fun with it!
Stir fry or Fried rice? Empty the contents of your fridge or freezer by cooking up a quick, no-fuss, stir fry or fried rice. Incorporate green beans for some bite and a little extra vitamin A, C, and B9 (folate).
Bottom’s up. Smoothies are a fantastic way to slip in three to four servings of produce into your day without even noticing. Blend several handfuls of baby spinach, kale, beets, carrots, or even pumpkin into any fruit smoothie for a wonderfully wholesome beverage on the go.
Pizza. Who doesn’t love pizzas? But how can we make it veggie-full? Try topping your pizza with any combination of sliced bell peppers, mushrooms, olives, zucchini, or artichoke hearts. Who says pizzas can’t be healthy?
Wholesome meals do not have to be complicated or time-consuming. Here are a few tips to make healthy eating practical - so you can be the chef of your culinary delights:
Meal prep for “fast food.” Taking a few hours out of your week (maybe on the weekend) to meal prep can make assembling nutritious meals quick, cost-effective, and delicious. Say goodbye to the mealtime stress! Here are a couple of prep methods you can try:
Batch cook. Prepare a variety of proteins, veggies, and complex carbohydrates, that way, you will be able to mix and match to create different and exciting meal combinations.
Incremental prep. Instead of prepping all of your ingredients at once, which may be overwhelming, try spreading out the prep work throughout the week. Begin by prepping one food item per day. Maybe designate Sundays for the main meal, Mondays for veggies, and Tuesdays for snacks.
Slow cooker or pressure cooker. Utilizing a slow-cooker or pressure cooker like an Instant Pot is like having another set of hands in the kitchen. Just input your settings before going to bed, and voila, a hassle-free meal in the morning.
Pre-cut & pre-wash are your friends. Purchasing already diced produce and washed greens can be a true time-saver. Next time you’re walking the aisles at Trader Joe’s, look for the Diced Onion, Mirepoix, and Minced Garlic product, to name a few.
Buy frozen. There is nothing wrong with buying frozen vegetables like peas, green beans, spinach, and vegetable medleys. It makes for quick work in the kitchen, lasts longer, and is just as nutritious as fresh vegetables.
To freeze or not to freeze? If meal prepping every week does not work with your schedule, prep for two weeks and go ahead and freeze with confidence. Freezing meals will not diminish nutritional value, flavor, or texture. Also, you can always freeze ingredients together or separately.
L is for leftovers. Don’t be afraid to double your recipes so you can have delicious meals for days to come.
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