Multitasking Foods to Add to Your Meal Plan
— By Jen Mueller
Deciding to change your diet can be an overwhelming idea. You’ll have to clean out the pantry, remove any and all treats, stock up on rabbit food and mentally prepare to feel hungry all the time. That’s the only way to improve your diet and reach your health and weight-loss goals, right? Wrong. The truth is, the small changes you implement can add up to big results.
Rather than depriving yourself of foods you love, work to incorporate multitasking superfoods into your new healthy lifestyle instead. Superfoods benefit your body in a variety of ways. Not only do these nutritional powerhouses fuel your body, they can also fight illness and help prevent disease. Plus, they are easy to prepare and taste great, too. By making smart substitutions, you enjoy foods that are full of important nutrients without sacrificing taste. Try some of these simple diet swaps to incorporate more superfoods into your daily meal plan.
- Quinoa instead of brown rice. The trendy grain has more protein, fiber and iron than brown rice. It also contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants with numerous health benefits. Quinoa cooks in less than 15 minutes and can easily be substituted for rice in casseroles, side dishes, soups or salads. Discover the power of quinoa by giving one of these simple recipes a try.
- Oatmeal instead of cold cereal. Oats have a good amount of fiber and protein, which will help keep you feeling fuller longer, but not all oatmeal is created equal. Opt for old-fashioned or steel-cut oats, which are minimally processed to retain their full nutritional value. Jazz up your hot bowl of oats with seasonal fruits, cinnamon or a natural nut butter and you’ll never be bored with breakfast again. If you do choose cereal, be sure to read labels to find the healthiest options.
- Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. With a thicker, creamier texture than traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt makes for a nice replacement for sour cream in a variety of dishes, including tacos and chili, or in baked goods. Compared to sour cream, Greek yogurt is higher in protein and B12, and also contains healthy probiotics.
- Dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Everyone enjoys a treat now and then, so why not get a nutritional boost at the same time? Milk chocolate is higher in fat and sugar than dark chocolate, and also contains less of the original cocoa bean. Cocoa is a good source of flavonoids, which makes dark chocolate the more nutritional choice. Next time that chocolate craving strikes, look for a bar with at least 70 percent cacao.
- Kale or spinach instead of romaine. Romaine lettuce is a good low-calorie option, but it doesn’t provide much added nutrition. Instead, try kale or spinach in your salad, as a sandwich wrap or in your favorite smoothie. Both are high in vitamins A, C and K, manganese and folate. Be forewarned, though, the texture and taste of kale can take some getting used to, so start small and experiment with different methods of preparation.
- Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. Sweet potatoes have risen in popularity because of their great taste and nutritional benefits. They are high in beta-carotene and vitamins A and C, and are also lower on the glycemic index than regular potatoes, meaning sweet potatoes don’t spike blood sugar levels as much. Try them as a baked or mashed side dish, atop your next salad or as a sweet treat sprinkled with a little butter and brown sugar.
- Green tea instead of coffee. Before you panic about losing your daily cup of Joe, this diet swap doesn’t mean that coffee is bad. Coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of certain diseases, improved cognitive function and decreased risk of depression. That said, green tea contains flavonoids, has less caffeine than coffee and won’t stain your teeth. All this is not to say you have to give up coffee if you are a diehard fan, but is rather something to consider for variety and different health benefits.
- Cinnamon instead of sugar. While cinnamon has a number of unproven health benefits, it is still a better option than added sugar. Too much sugar in any diet increases the risk of obesity and other diseases, making substitution key in a healthy eating plan. Swapping cream and sugar for cinnamon in your coffee to save calories, or sprinkling cinnamon on pancakes or unsweetened applesauce to add flavor are just a few ways cinnamon can help satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Hummus instead of mayonnaise. A turkey sandwich with mayo tastes good, sure, but the calories and fat from even a small amount of this popular condiment can be a diet killer. Made with chickpeas and other fresh ingredients, hummus is a better source of protein, fiber, heart-healthy fat and iron compared to mayonnaise. It can be used in a variety of ways, such as in wraps, on sandwiches, in salad dressing, as a dip or even on a flatbread pizza in place of sauce.
Do you have a favorite superfood swap?