Here’s a collection of our favorite tips and strategies for creating healthier meals and improving your overall family nutrition.
Tasty Family Nutrition: Make Your Favorite Recipes Healthy Recipes
We all know cooking at home is a healthier choice over choosing the drive-thru or dining out. However, it’s important to remember that recipes are created simply for their texture and flavor, but don’t always take health into consideration. To make it easier for you to cook more healthfully, here are a few tips that you can use on a variety of recipes.
- For many recipes it’s easy to simply reduce the amount of fat or oil used to make cooking easier. Non-stick cookware means you need little or no fat when cooking on the stovetop. Greasing baking dishes is often unnecessary as well, but you may have to experiment a little.
- For fats and oils used for baking cakes and muffins, you can often substitute them with apple puree. For cookies, aim to replace about ½ the oil with puree. You can even aim for a more healthful impact by using highly nutritious sweet potato puree as a fat and oil substitute.
- If a recipe calls for saturated fats like butter or even lard, replace it with vegetable or olive oil. Of course, this won’t always work in recipes that call for creaming of butter. In those cases, you might try margarine or simply reduce the amount of butter.
- In baking, you can usually replace 1 egg with 2 egg yolks for the same desired result, but with less cholesterol.
- Try replacing at least half the white flour in a recipe with whole wheat. Many recipes will work with a complete replacement, so experiment a little. Your health is at stake.
- Many sweet recipes are sweeter than they need to be. Don’t be shy about reducing the sugars. Definitely do this where sweeteners are often added after cooking. For example, there is no reason pancake or waffle batter needs a lot of sugar when syrup, fruit and other sweet items are added afterwards.
- To salt or not to salt? In savory foods, salt is usually not necessary. For baked goods, while many may say otherwise, it’s not always necessary either. One exception is baked goods using yeast. Salt slows down the rising process and produces better texture, so it is likely necessary, but you can try reducing the amount of salt used.
- Try lower fat dairy products in your recipes. Instead of heavy cream, use half and half. Instead of whole or 2% milk, try skim. The same goes for sour cream, yogurt and cheeses. Just make sure to read the label for quality ingredients as lower quality products tend to add undesirable ingredients and chemicals to make their low fat varieties more palatable.
Overall, it’s important to try things out. The more you rework recipes and learn from your successes and even the failures, the easier it becomes to modify recipes on the fly.
Simple Cooking Strategies that Improve Family Nutrition
Many of our favorite ways of cooking aren’t supportive of healthy eating. Here are some simple strategies you can apply to your favorite meals to give them a healthier twist.
- Invest in some quality non-stick cookware. When you use quality non-stick surfaces, you can greatly reduce or even eliminate the oil required for cooking. For example, with a good non-stick griddle, no oil is necessary when making pancakes. Not only is that healthier, but pancakes without the grease taste so much better.
- Do less frying and more baking, poaching and grilling. Instead of fried chicken, coat and bake it instead. Instead of French fries, slice some potatoes; place them on a baking sheet and bake until golden.
- Try cooking with a food steamer. Steaming food does not add any oil or additional fats and calories. Plus, it locks in healthy nutrients.
- Choose leaner cuts of meat and trim fat before cooking. If you’re cooking with chicken, consider removing the skin first. Because this can dry out the chicken, you can cook with the skin on, but remove it before serving. However, realize that cooking with the skin on increases the fat and cholesterol of your finished product.
- Go meatless at least once a week. Not every meal needs to have meat. Try beans, tofu or just a nice meatless pasta. Very few meat-eating Americans are at risk of protein deficiency, so don’t worry about missing protein in a single meal.
- Eat fish at least once a week. Fish is a high quality protein that is generally low in fat. Many fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids and are a good source of minerals, making them a healthy choice that promotes heart health.
- Reduce the refined ingredients you cook with. Choose whole-wheat flour instead of all-purpose white flour. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, instead of canned. Instead of refined sugars like white sugar and corn syrup, choose sweeteners like unrefined honey or maple syrup.
- Cooking sprays are often touted as a healthy alternative to cooking with oils, but aerosol cans are probably not your healthiest choice. You can purchase spray pumps specifically for oil and use that instead.
- Instead of reaching for the butter or other unhealthy flavorings, experiment with herbs, spices and other flavors. Herbs and spices have vitamins, minerals and some even have antioxidants. Plus, they are fat-free and a healthy way to add a little something to your favorite foods.
- Reduce sodium by waiting to add salt after food is cooked, and only when it’s necessary. Avoid canned and other prepared ingredients in your food. Use fresh wherever possible.
Simple Ways to Get More Fiber in Your Diet
Americans don’t get enough fiber in their diets. Under current nutrition standards, the daily recommended intake is 20-30 grams each day of fiber from actual food (not supplements). Most people struggle to consume half of that.
Fiber is known to help in the prevention of cancers, heart disease and even diabetes. It can also help in weight regulation, reduce cholesterol and constipation. In short, it’s an important part of a healthy diet and long life.
Fiber is found only in plant-based foods and because many diets are focused on meats and refined carbohydrates, it’s no wonder that many diets lack it. While not all plant-based foods are equal in their fiber content, here are some foods high in dietary fiber to incorporate into your family nutrition plan:
- Apples, pears, bananas and raspberries.
- Bran cereal, whether it’s oat, wheat, rice or corn
- Oats, flax seeds
- Lentils; navy, white, kidney and black beans.
- Cocoa powder and dark chocolate
- Almonds, pistachios and pecans
- Avocado, kale, peas, winter squash and many other vegetables
Of course, it’s easy to say which foods are high in fiber, but how can you make sure that your diet is rich in fiber? Here are some approaches that might help:
- If you enjoy breakfast cereals, focus on bran cereals or grab yourself a nice comforting bowl of oatmeal.
- Add bran and flax seeds to baked goods like muffins, loaves and even cakes.
- Flax seed is also easily and discretely added to smoothies, yogurt and even soups.
- Oats can also be added to cookies, muffins and other baked goods.
- Juicing removes the fiber from the fruit. Make a point of eating fresh, whole fruits regularly.
- Fill your plate with vegetables before adding proteins and other carbohydrates.
- Speaking of carbohydrates, focus on unrefined carbs and forgo the refined flour and rice.
- Go meatless and eat more beans. They’re delicious and good for you.
- Eat more salad and fewer French fries. Pre-cut salad ingredients and keep them in your fridge for easy access.
- Keep a well-stocked veggie plate in your fridge at all times. You’re more likely to grab it if it’s all ready for you.
- Keep skins on vegetables, where possible. The most fiber is often found near the skin.
- Nuts are a satisfying snack that gives you a nutrition boost.
- Instead of sugary desserts, try a fruit salad to satisfy a sweet tooth
- Enjoy a little dark chocolate now and then. You deserve it.
- Read the label. When it comes to packaged foods, find the one with the most dietary fiber and nutritional value for you.
Our Favorite 7 Foods to Help You Maintain a Healthy Heart
With heart disease being the leading cause of death, it’s no wonder why there is plenty of talk about being heart healthy. While a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains that incorporate lean proteins and fish is key to a healthy lifestyle, there are a few foods that stand out in their healing power. Here are ten of them.
By no means is this an exhaustive list, nor is it a suggestion that these are the most heart smart foods. These are just ten foods to consider in your heart healthy lifestyle.
- Blueberries: Full of antioxidants and folate, blueberries are known to fight heart disease, cancer and other illnesses. They also include plenty of fiber and vitamin C. Use them on top of your cereal and salads and add them to baked goods.
- Tofu and soymilk: Soy-based products include plenty of healthy benefits and are rich in calcium, potassium and magnesium. Tofu is a great meat substitute.
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal is full of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, potassium, magnesium, soluble fiber and folate. It’s a great start to your day or you can add oats to your favorite baked cookies.
- Spinach: This flavorful green vegetable includes calcium, fiber, potassium and B-complex vitamins. Use spinach in place of lettuce in salads and sandwiches. Cooked spinach is delicious as well.
- Salmon: Oily fish are a good source of vitamins A and D and omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon has the highest concentration omega-3s, but tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines, herring and anchovies are also good source. You can grill salmon; add it to a stir-fry, pasta or even a salad.
- Black and kidney beans: These beans are high in soluble fiber, B-complex vitamins and folate. Because they are low in fat, they’re a great protein source in your meals. Add them to soups, serve them over rice or make some chilli.
- Sweet potatoes: Not only do they taste good, but sweet potatoes also have plenty to offer nutritionally. They are a great course of beta-carotene, fiber and vitamins A, C and E. Eat them as a side dish or puree them into pancakes and muffins.