Quick! Let’s do a little word association: When I say, ‘health food’ what’s the first thought that comes to mind? Does the very notion conjure up images of huge grocery bills or tearful children? Fear not! Though a lot of people think that eating healthier would necessarily require a complete diet overhaul, just a few tweaks and sneaks can make a huge difference. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
- Chop up fresh spinach and toss it in with your tomato sauce. It’s an easy way to sneak in one of nature’s super foods and your kids won’t likely notice. Plus, they might even develop a taste for spinach! Imagine that! Oh, and speaking of tomato sauce, what kind are you using? A little label reading goes a long way here. Some have a ton of added junk–sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fats, sodium–and can be rather high in calories. So take a peak at that marinara label. Look for one that has maybe 50 or so calories or less per serving, which is typically 1/2 cup. Or! If you are really feeling wild, try making your *own* marinara sauce. Sounds like a lot of work, but you can actually whip up a batch with little time and effort. All you need is a drizzle of olive oil, some minced garlic, a healthy splosh of white wine, a big can of crushed tomatoes, and your favorite Italian herbs and spices (e.g. basil, oregano, marjoram, parsley, crushed red pepper flakes, etc.). Toss in a couple handfuls of that chopped, fresh spinach and you’ll have an easy dinner with huge nutritional value.
- Keep a bag of blueberries in the freezer. Not only will you get all those lovely health-protective antioxidants, but you’ll also get a much needed taste of summer when the pickings are slim. Try a handful in your yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, desserts–whatever you can think of!
- Try using low-fat Greek-style yogurt in place of sour cream or cream in all sorts of recipes. Über thick and creamy, this stuff lends itself ever so well to dips, salad dressings, desserts, creamy sauces, and more, and yet packs a nutritional wallop. It’s high in complete protein and immune-enhancing probiotics while being generally low in calories and fat–if you choose a low-fat variety; be warned that full-fat versions are anything but low-cal. (If you are needing a boost in protein and calories, however, go for those full-fat varieties!) Ditto if there’s a bunch of added sugar.
- Swap your regular pasta for a whole grain variety, like Barilla Plus. Made with lentils, chickpeas, spelt, barley, flax seed, oats, and wheat, Barilla Plus is higher in fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and folate…oh, and my husband likes it! Though many will choke down any horrid bit of cardboard in the name of health, I’ve always believed that good nutrition and good taste don’t have to be mutually exclusive.