Boost the nutrition in your meals and snacks while keeping them yummy
We can all benefit from a few more fruits and vegetables in our diet every day. But it doesn’t need to be a punishment! It’s easy to work more in, and either you will barely notice or they’ll add flavor to things you already enjoy.
Here are some shortcuts that will increase your intake without adding a lot of extra effort:
Keep ’em on hand
Keep frozen and fresh fruits & veggies on hand for quick meal prep. (Canned if you must, but choose ones without added sugar, syrup, cream sauces, or other ingredients with empty calories.)
Stock up on hummus, dips, and dressing to dip raw veggies into—a great between-meals snack. Put these out before a meal instead of crackers and cheese.
Approach your plate strategically
When you grab a plate, be mindful about filling half of it with fruits and veggies before you pile on the starches, proteins, and fats. Greens and salads are great because they take up a lot of space, and are packed with fiber!
Get steaming and sautéing
Steamed and sautéed vegetables make great side dishes—and so quick and easy to prepare! To sauté them on the stovetop, try using chicken broth or veggie broth for added flavor, instead of butter or oil. Be sure to season all veggies well with salt and pepper. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, a sprinkle of herbs, or a dash of grated parmesan to bring out additional flavor.
Adjust the ratios in your cooking
If a recipe calls for fruits or vegetables, add twice as much. If the recipe doesn't call for them, experiment by adding some grated squash to casseroles, grated carrots or zucchini to baked goods. Baked goods almost always benefit from added fruit—fresh or dried!
Ready to roll
One of the advantages of fresh fruit like apples, bananas, pears, and most citrus is that it’s easy to take with you—pack some napkins and a Ziploc bag for the peel or core when you’re finished, and you’re all set. Others, like melons and berries, require some washing or chopping. But toss berries into a container of plain or vanilla yogurt with a lid, and take it with you. If you spend 20 minutes on Sunday cutting up veggies you like (peppers, carrots, cucumbers) and put them in little (ideally recyclable) containers, they’re easy to grab on your way out of the house.
Since it’s the most important meal of the day, make room for more fruit and veggies!
- If eggs are your go-to breakfast, sauté a handful of spinach, onions, and/or mushrooms in olive oil or broth and substitute that tasty, vitamin-packed half-cup for one of the eggs or half the cheese in your morning omelet.
- If cereal is your morning ritual, then add berries or cut-up fruit to your whole-grain staple. Top with low-fat milk and, for an extra burst of creaminess, a few tablespoons of plain yogurt (with the fruit you’ll find you don’t need added sugar).
- If you make waffles or pancakes the night before, add some berries and sprinkle wheat germ in the batter. Then pop one in the toaster before you leave in the morning, and top with more fresh fruit instead of syrup.
- Make some thick oatmeal—not instant but the kind you cook on top of the stove (steel-cut is a great whole-grain option, without all the added sugar and artificial flavoring). Spoon some into a travel mug and top with nuts, seeds or dried fruit, and maybe a little yogurt.
- Salad for breakfast? Some people like a savory dish first thing in the morning—the Japanese do it every day! Top leftover greens with some fresh fruit (fresh or dried), a creamy dressing, seeds, and nuts, and you’ll find you’re surprisingly satisfied.
There are dozens of ways to increase the nutritional content in your diet, if you just look for opportunities. You might even find that your cravings for sweets subside a bit if you have some natural sugar (in the form of fruit) with every meal. Taking good care of yourself with your diet can pay off in terms of your energy level, your skin, your digestion, and your mental clarity. Try it out and see how you feel!
This article is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School. We offer several different professional training programs at our campuses in Malden and Fall River, MA. Reach out to us today for more information or to schedule a campus tour!