You already know the benefits of healthy eating, and you try to eat as nutritious as possible, but sometimes it’s just plain hard to stay on track. Whether it’s finding the time to make better meals, or being surrounded by tempting treats, it can be tough to change your eating habits. There are many reasons why eating better may be a challenge for you, but these simple tips from our amazing intern, Kathleen, can make it a whole lot easier to keep up with more healthy eating habits!
Ways to Make Healthful Eating Easier
Using spices for flavor
Healthy food gets a bad rep for being “boring.” But it definitely doesn’t have to be! Adding herbs and spices are an amazing way to pack flavor into your meals! Herbs and spices range from having antibacterial and antiviral properties to trace minerals and antioxidants. Here are some ideas of when and where to add in certain herbs and spices to your meals:
- Cinnamon: first of all, it is an excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory! It is a great staple for baked goods as well as savory dishes like Indian curries.
- Basil: another great anti-inflammatory herb that also has antiviral properties. You can buy it fresh or dried. Try sprinkling it into soups or omelettes, veggies or meats. Or how about layering mozzarella, tomato, and fresh basil for a delicious Caprese salad.
- Paprika: This spice is high in antioxidants and packs a powerful punch in small amounts. It has a distinct bright red/orange color and is excellent on meats and roasted vegetables like sweet potatoes and white potatoes.
- Cayenne Pepper: If you enjoy spicy foods, this spice is great for you! It is also known to help improve circulation and reduce the risk of heart problems. Add a small amount to meat, vegetables, or sauces depending on your tolerance to spicy foods.
- Other great spices and herbs: ginger, cumin, nutmeg, mint, curry powder, rosemary, and thyme.
Steaming veggies rather than cooking using oils
I am in love with my steamer! It is a great way to cook your veggies without using any cooking oil and is a minimal step process. Wash and chop your veggies, boil your water, throw them in the steamer and wait for them to cook! When you can poke a fork through your vegetables, you’ll know they are done. This is especially great when you’re planning to add a sauce (like tomato sauce or pesto) to your meal and don’t want to go too heavy on oils. Also, if you have any problems digesting raw vegetables this is an excellent option. Our favorites to steam: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and kale.
Focus on the Main 4: Fat, Protein, Carbohydrate, Vegetable
These are my go-to’s when making lunch or dinner! When planning or deciding on a meal, if it is possible try to focus on getting all four of these into your meal. Quite a few of these foods overlap with their value. For example, some sources of fish such as tuna and salmon are great sources of both fat AND protein. When you get in all 4, you are creating a healthful meal that will keep you satisfied until your next!
- Fat source ideas: olive oil, avocado, nuts such as walnuts, almonds, or cashews, salmon, tuna,
- Protein source ideas: fish, meat, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, nut butters, Greek yogurt
- Carbohydrate source ideas: potatoes/sweet potatoes, whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, beans, vegetables, fruits
Add any vegetables that you enjoy!!
Healthy swaps (i.e. brown rice pasta or chickpea pasta instead of white pasta)
Pasta is a staple for easy lunch and breakfast meals. However, white pasta is not always the best choice. Instead, opt for spaghetti squash, brown rice pasta, chickpea pasta, black bean pasta, or red lentil pasta. So many grocery stores have tons of options, the PASTAbilities are endless (LOL). If you’re looking to increase your vegetable intake reduce your caloric and/or carbohydrate intake, swapping your regular white pasta for spaghetti squash is an excellent option. The look and texture is most similar to angel hair pasta. To prepare spaghetti squash, cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Bake until tender and scrape a fork across the flesh to separate it into strands. Serve and enjoy the same way you would pasta!
Whole grain pasta is higher in fiber (about 6 grams in whole grain vs 2.5 grams) and complex carbohydrates than regular pasta. It has a more hearty flavor and the texture isn’t quite as soft as regular pasta.
Bean and lentil pastas will give you more protein per serving and a different kind of flavor and texture! I recommend trying a few different ones and seeing what you like best 🙂
Other awesome healthy swaps:
- Dark leafy greens instead of iceberg lettuce
- Oil and balsamic vinegar instead of processed dressings
- Greek yogurt instead of sour cream
- Sparkling water instead of soda
- Oatmeal instead of cereal
- Use avocado as a spread in place of mayo or butter
10 minute or less Healthful Breakfasts
Getting up and out the door in the morning can be tough enough without thinking about what to make for breakfast so that you aren’t starving by lunch. Even on those days that you aren’t in a rush, it’s nice to have some quick, easy options that you can feel good about! These are some of our go-to’s:
- Smoothies are a personal favorite. They are so versatile and easy to pack in lots of nutrients! For those mornings when you know you’ll be short on time, measure out your portions and put them together in a plastic bag or container in the fridge/freezer so you can pull them out in the morning, throw them in the blender, add your favorite protein source and liquid base and boom! Breakfast ready in under 5 minutes. Good protein options for smoothies can include your favorite protein powder, Greek yogurt, or nut butters. I am a huge fan of adding veggies into my smoothies always! The easiest is spinach which i promise you will never even taste! Other options include zucchini, sweet potatoes, or beets (pro tip: steam these veggies before freezing them to add to your smoothies! You will have an easier time digesting them).
- Hard boil eggs. Need I say more?! An excellent protein source and you don’t even need to cook! Slice some avocado and put on whole grain toast for a breakfast packed with fat, protein, and carbs to keep you fueled and alert through lunch.
- Overnight oats: a great source of fiber to keep you going all morning long! Add in some nuts or nut butter and fruit you are good to go.
- Two Ingredient Pancakes are so delicious and fun to make! All you need are eggs and ripe bananas. Add in a scoop of protein powder and top with Greek yogurt, honey, and fruit for a fun, simple, delicious healthy breakfast!
About the author!
We’re so excited to have Kathleen interning for us here at ISN! Kathleen graduated from UMass Amherst in May with her BS in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is starting her Dietetic Internship in NYC March 2018! Growing up she knew she wanted to work in a field that allowed her to help others, and as she got older she became more drawn to the health and wellness world. Kathleen knew she found her calling from her very first nutrition class at UMass and knew she wanted to be a RD. She is passionate about leading an active, healthy lifestyle, intuitive eating, and recently acquired her 200 hour yoga teacher certification. Kathleen is so excited to share her passion with all of you!