It’s National Nutrition Month, a great time to revisit what’s on the menu at home and make simple adjustments to ensure that everyone’s eating for their very good health. Even when you’re squeezed for time, healthy fare is possible, and making informed choices can help protect your family from packing on the pounds and reduce their risk of disease, including diabetes and high cholesterol. Here’s how:
Change Your Mind(Set)
Instead of thinking about your choices as either “good” or “bad,” think “nutrient-rich,” advises the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). Foods dense in vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients are typically lower in calories, bad fats and sugars. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy products, as well as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts top the recommended list of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
• Created for folks on extremely tight budgets, Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day is available as a free download in English and Spanish on her site; www.leannebrown.com.
• The Budget Bytes site offers cheap and healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as slow cookers, one-pot meals, vegetarian fare, appetizers, soups and desserts; www.budgetbytes.com.
• Every recipe on the 99 Cent Chef site is made from ingredients that cost .99 cents each or .99 cents per pound; www.the99centchef.blogspot.com.
Mix Things Up
Planning a week’s worth of meals in advance eases the 6 o’clock “what to cook now?” conundrum. Don’t settle for repeat dinners, though, which can bring on boredom. Rather, intrigue taste buds by switching up tried-and-true recipes with new flavors and ingredients. “By eating a balanced diet filled with a wide range of foods, it is easy to ensure that you consume adequate amounts of all essential nutrients,” explains Deanna Minich, Ph.D., and author of The Rainbow Diet. “This not only reduces the risk of nutritional deficiencies; it also provides numerous health benefits.”
A little ingenuity goes a long way to make family meals more beneficial – and more enjoyable. “If you know you're going to have a busy day, prepare a smoothie first thing in the morning. Be sure to include the fruits or vegetables that might not be convenient to eat later in the day,” recommends registered dietitian Jillian O’Neill. “By the end of the day, you've consumed extra fruits and veggies without going overboard on sweets.” To pump up your family’s fiber intake without them even noticing, simply add ground flaxseed or chia seeds to the smoothie.
Make Smart Swaps
For a healthy grab-and-go breakfast, trade sugar-laden cereal for high-fiber toast topped with mashed banana, for fewer calories and more nutrients that’ll still satisfy a sweet tooth. Skip starchy mashed potatoes in favor of antioxidant-rich mashed cauliflower for the same soothing texture and flavor. Instead of slathering butter or mayo on sandwiches, try spreading on a layer of creamy, fiber- and potassium-rich avocado for a heart-healthy treat. And forego sugary desserts for sliced apples, peaches or pears warmed up in the oven and sprinkled with crunchy toasted coconut or rolled oats. Small changes like these will ultimately lead to long-term successes!