Most of us think that making a commitment to healthier eating means
cutting out our favorite foods and depriving ourselves of the stuff we
love most. Actually, the opposite is true. Eating right is all about
expanding your food choices, so you bring more options to the table, so
to speak, and consume a more balanced (yet still delicious) variety that
delivers the crucial nutrients your body craves without depriving
yourself, says Lauren Schmitt, RD, a busy mom, registered dietitian, and
owner of Healthy Eating and Training, a food counseling center in Los
Need some convincing? Try some of these sneaky nutrition-boosting
strategies, which Schmitt recommends to her clients. Some have to do
with shopping choices, others are simple food prep and serving
techniques even non-cooks can master. They’ll help you and your family
feel fitter, have more energy, and never again equate a healthy diet
with deprivation again.
1. Rearrange Your Plate
When most of us picture a meal comprised of meat, veggies, and a starch,
we imagine meat taking up the biggest portion of the plate. But studies
consistently show that eating less meat and more plant food is linked
to a longer, healthier life. So flip that image in your mind and start
making food grown in the ground your main course. You’ll still be eating
the same things, but the healthier ratio will slash calories and fat.
2. Go a Little (Wal)nuts
Every time you munch on a walnut, you consume nutrients like omega-3
fatty acids that are believed to protect against cancer and heart
disease. Eat them raw, crumble them over a salad or dessert, or buy them
chopped and add them to breading for chicken or fish.
3. Eat Adventurously
It’s easy to stick to your favorite meal staples—but why not explore
your local market and vow to sample an exotic new fruit, seafood, or
other product once a week? Grocery stores carry an amazing assortment of
choices these days from all over the world and discover new favorites
to accompany your old standbys.
4. Sneak in Spinach
Raw spinach can go pretty much any place you usually put lettuce (such
as BLTs, burgers, salads, tacos), and taste-wise, it’s hard to know the
difference. But your body will thank you for the laundry list of
powerful nutrients the darker green leaf delivers. In addition to being
an excellent source of several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,
spinach has been shown to have cancer-fighting properties.
5. Sprinkle on Cinnamon
This breakfast-friendly spice is packed with lots of disease-fighting
antioxidants and can even cut down on inflammation associated with body
aches and illnesses. Oatmeal, cold cereal, granola, toast, your latte…
they’ll all taste better with a little cinnamon dashed on top, but
there’s no extra calories.
6. Buy Produce That’s Already Prepped
They’re a little pricier, but fruits and veggies that have been
prewashed and precut can mean the difference between the good stuff
making it into your mouth vs. sitting in a crisper drawer. Containers of
cut-up fruits like pineapple, watermelon, and grapes are perfect as
snacks or a side dish with your lunch, and kids love them too. Plus,
veggies that are already peeled, chopped, and packaged in microwave steamer bags can be added to your evening meal instantly.
7. Toss in a Turnip
Making mashed potatoes? Alone, the taters pack vitamin C, vitamin B6,
and potassium, but smashing a turnip into the mix raises the level of
vitamin C even higher, plus adds antioxidants and vitamin A. If you chop
the greens from the top of the turnip and throw those in to the dish
too, you’ll get good-for-you calcium, copper, and iron.
8. Make Room for Mushrooms
Next time you’re sautéing ground beef, use a little less meat and fill
out the pan with a handful of mushrooms. Not only will you decrease the
amount of total fat and cholesterol in your meal, you’ll be gaining
Vitamin D—a nutrient that’s relatively rare in food—plus lots of
superhero antioxidants. You can also easily sauté mushrooms in olive oil
and add them to canned spaghetti sauce or sprinkle a bunch to health
up a frozen cheese pizza.
9. Do a Dip
If your family is full of stubborn veggie-avoiders, dips are a great
solution. Salsa, hummus, guacamole, white bean, spinach, and avocado
dips are all made from vegetables or legumes blended in a food
processor. When scooped up on tortilla or pita chips, the anti-vegetable
crowd won’t realize they’re actually consuming plant food—and reaping
the high nutritional content too.
10. Cook Carrots Whole
doesn’t get much easier than this: Instead of chopping carrots before
you put them in the oven or on a stove-top pan, slice them after they’ve
been cooked. Researchers in the UK found that doing this will raise
their antioxidant content by as much as 25 percent. The reason: chopping
them beforehand increases the amount of exposed surface area, and that
allows more nutrients to escape during cooking.
11. Opt for Organic
The jury is still out as to whether or not eating organic will make you
healthier, but most people agree that certain organic fruits and
vegetables (apples, strawberries and tomatoes in particular) pack more
flavor than their conventionally grown counterparts—and are therefore
way more fun to eat. The same goes for farmer’s market produce. If your
typical response to biting into a tomato is “eh,” sink your teeth into
an organic heirloom one, and you’ll be in for a scrumptious surprise.
12. Pop Open a Can of Pumpkin
Check the very back of your cabinets—you probably already have a few
cans of pumpkin left over from last Thanksgiving. By adding a cup of
the low-calorie, fiber-rich puree to any pancake or muffin batter, or
even using it to replace half the oil in brownie batter, you’ll be
scoring Vitamins A, C, and E, plus multiple disease-fighting
antioxidants. And pumpkin flavor gives a nice natural sweetness kids