Do you get enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet? Most of us don’t. These foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Furthermore, research points to plant foods in the prevention of some diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. If there is one thing nutrition experts agree on, it’s that we need to eat more plant foods.
Consider these helpful tips to create a healthier version of yourself:
1. Rule #1 — Choose foods you like. Eating healthy does not mean choking down foods you think you should like.
2. Incorporate healthy foods for snacks. Try cucumbers, carrots and hummus; an apple or celery with peanut butter; cottage cheese with peaches or pineapple. Mixed nuts also make a delicious snack.
3. Have a fresh fruit bowl ready and easily accessible. Not only does this add a colorful centerpiece to your table, fruit is a nutritious, filling snack.
4. Frozen berries and grapes are very refreshing on a hot summer day. Think of it as a natural popsicle.
5. Make noodles out of zucchini, yellow squash or carrots. Get a spiralizer and have some fun. This is a good way to get children involved in preparing meals.
6. Choose one vegetarian meal/day. Enjoy red beans and rice, lentil soup with a peanut butter sandwich or black-eyed peas with potatoes.
7. Turn veggies into chips. Slice sweet potatoes, beets or brussels sprouts into thin pieces. Spray with olive oil, add seasoning and bake until crispy. This is a great appetizer while waiting for the dinner bell to ring.
8. Whole grains — Start with a high fiber cereal or oatmeal for breakfast. Choose whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta. If you’re used to eating white pasta, switching to whole wheat may be an adjustment for your palate. Try mixing half white pasta with half whole wheat.
9. Popcorn is a whole grain and if cooked properly can be a very healthy snack. Use olive oil, then season with a little salt and margarine spray. Beware of the slick advertising with some popcorn sold in stores today. They market them as healthy, but if you read the label, the calories per serving are the same as potato chips.
10. Try one new-to-you plant food every week. How about quinoa? Or almond milk? Enjoy black bean soup and homemade bread for dinner.
As always, be healthy!
Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC, aka Dear Dietitian, is an award-winning dietitian based in Missouri. Do you have a nutrition question? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.