Healthy eating does not have to be costly or time-consuming. It is simply a matter of making appropriate choices. When done properly, eating healthy is actually tastier! Here are a few ways that make adding more nutrition to your diet a piece of cake. (Whole wheat, naturally-sweetened cake, of course…)
Quick disclaimer: I think the nutritional Daily Values are hogwash, along with the government-issued food pyramid and any sort of blanket requirements for ‘healthy eating.’ I believe everyone has different nutrient needs and that there is no one-size-fits-all way to eat. I also believe that the mainstream propaganda of low-fat and low-cholesterol are baseless and dangerous. Lots of fruits and vegetables, lots of healthy fats (such as that found in whole milk, butter, nuts, olive oil, and coconut oil), and whole, unprocessed foods are at the base of a good diet, but you must listen to your body and your tastes to determine what is best for you. ::deep breath:: I include the Daily Values for some things below only as a guideline to indicate the importance of said item, which is really the only thing the DV is good for.
1. Use sweet potatoes
Fried, mashed, hashed, or baked, sweet potatoes are delicious and so nutritious. 100 grams of this tuber (a smallish, 3-4″ potato) packs 283% of vitamin A, a nutrient that “helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin. It is also known as retinol because it produces the pigments in the retina of the eye. Vitamin A promotes good vision, especially in low light. It may also be needed for reproduction and breast-feeding. [source][/source]” It also contains fair amounts of calcium (3%), magnesium (6%), vitamin C (4%), iron (3%), and vitamin B6 (10%). Your standard white potato isn’t necessarily devoid of nutrition, though, with magnesium (5%), vitamin C (15%), iron (2%), and vitamin B-6 (10%).
2. Carrots are a great snack and filler
Crunchy, earthy, and slightly sweet, carrots are my favorite kitchen unitasker. Cut into sticks, they make an excellent snack for those moments when you just want to munch on something but aren’t really hungry. That’s the scary time when many will reach for processed products like chips, pretzels, etc. Dip them in hummus, mustard, yogurt dip, onion dip, or just enjoy as is. Carrots also make a great filler for meals where you need to tuck in a few extra nutrients. Try sneaking them into chili, tomato sauce, or hash browns. They are an obvious addition to soups and stews, but I always add just a bit more. Shredded carrots soaked in a vinegar solution are an amazing taco or pulled pork topping, adding the most addictive tangy crunch. I also love to slice them into rounds and pick at them while cooking dinner.
3. Use chicken stock instead of water
Bone broth is an amazing superfood that has unfortunately gone out of style. The current market of boneless, skinless meat is not only bland and dry, it leaves nothing for the soup pot. Try switching to whole chickens, and using the carcass to make stock. It will stretch your dollar further than you ever thought possible, while at the same time providing you with valuable minerals and gelatin. Use the stock in place of water for soups, stews, and grains such as rice and quinoa.
4. Add garlic to everything!
Okay, maybe not everything. Generally, I try to toss in a minced clove or two with dishes that use onions. Think quiche, hash, soups, burgers, meatloaf, stir fries, sauces, etc. It either enhances the flavor or hides in the background, quietly making you healthier. Even WebMD touts the benefits of garlic, which was recently found to be “100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics at fighting the Campylobacter bacterium, one of the most common causes of intestinal illness.” Add it in the last minute of cooking, as garlic burns easily and is actually healthier uncooked.
5. Onions: always round up
Unless the dish is intended to have delicate, nuanced flavors, I always use a whole onion. If a recipe calls for two tablespoons, I use a very small onion, maybe the size of a golf ball. If it needs 1/2 cup, I use a whole medium onion. I’ve yet to meet a meal that didn’t appreciate more onions! Personally, I never considered them a healthy food, only a tasty flavor-enhancer, but 100 grams of onion (just under 1 cup chopped) has 12% vitamin C, 2 grams of fiber, and a touch of calcium and iron. Still not convinced? Check out this article.
6. Spice it up
Spices have been valued for their health benefits for thousands of years. The world of herbs and spices is vast and exciting, an area I have yet to truly delve into. But even just scratching the surface will make your cooking healthier and more interesting. Cinnamon is anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and helps control blood sugar. Just 2 teaspoons of thyme contain 60% vitamin K, 19% iron, and 11% manganese, as well as powerful antioxidant qualities. Ginger, turmeric, oregano, and cayenne are also amazing.