Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ways to sneak extra nutrition into your diet

If you read any magazine or newspaper today you are likely to come across the idea of "superfoods", i.e. foods so nutritious that their addition will suddenly improve your entire diet, even if you eat McDonald's for the other meals of your day. It seems like new lists are coming out every day but the vegan lists typically include vegetables, fruits, a source of omega 3's and a specific whole grain.

I am not sure that I buy into the whole idea that you must eat these exact foods (in prescribed "doses") daily or else your arm will fall off but I do believe that little changes in your eating habits can reap big nutritional rewards. Based on this idea I am always looking for little nutritional tweaks to improve my meals and increase my actual nourishment from many of my favorite foods. Here are a few easy "tweaks".

  • Oatmeal: This is one of the healthiest breakfasts you can eat IF you don't pack it full of sugar... So skip the liberal doses of sugar and go for a bowl of traditional (PLAIN) oatmeal jazzed up with really fresh fruit, some walnuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon. If you must have some sweetner opt for a less processed natural sweetener like maple syrup or agave syrup and then use it sparingly! I have found that when I use truly fresh fruit (think like nearly brown bananas) I don't need sugar at all. Besides helping to drastically cutting back on processed sugar, the fruit provides additional fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. The walnuts also provide Omega 3's and more antioxidants than even blueberries.

  • Toast: A breakfast staple, make sure that it is whole grain. I mean truly whole grain. The first ingredient should be "Whole wheat (or spelt or rye....) flour" anything else (enriched wheat flour etc...) and it isn't any better for you than a muffin that has been tinted brown. Next top it with something that ups your nutritional content like a natural (non-hydrogenated) peanut butter, hummus or even smashed avocados. While these savory toppings may have a nearly as many calories as your vegan margarine, they also provide fiber, healthy fats, protein and lots of other good things!

  • Smoothie: A good homemade smoothie can be a great breakfast. Some fruit, some water and a blender and you are good to go. To increase the goodness consider making it a green smoothie by adding spinach or collard leaves or throwing in a tablespoon of ground flax seeds, a valuable source of Omega 3 fatty acids!

  • Coffee: I love coffee as much as nearly anyone... To improve my morning cup of joe, I always have it lightened with a little fortified soy milk. By choosing my coffee this way, I am making sure that I am getting extra vitamins and minerals (especially the much needed B12!!!) as well as a little protein boost in the morning, which can help me feel full until lunch.

  • Sandwiches: Always make them on whole grain bread! Also I tend to eat a salad on top of my sandwhich. This is one of the few things that I think subway got right... A sandwich is great with red peppers, cucumber and even thin carrot slices in addition to that lettuce.

  • Pastas: If possible, I substitute whole grain pasta. Also you can sneak baby spinach in while the pasta is draining. The heat from the pasta wilts it a bit before you add the sauce and you hardly notice it... but your body WILL notice the nutritional kick!

  • Soups & Salads: These are my best frieds at lunch! I always overload them with fresh veggies and then fill up!

  • Dessert: If you want something sweet during the day, go for fruit. It is both delicious and nutritious! Many varieties such as persimmons, clementines and bananas are naturally sweet and can satisfy any sweet tooth!

  • Snack time: Eat a small handful (like 1/8 cup) of raisins or nuts. Although these foods are higher in calories they also provide helthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals!

How do you sneak extra nutrition into your diet?

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