When weeks are hectic, the idea of trying to find new recipes and then see if your family will actually eat them can seem impossible. But here's the good news:
There are many ways you can make the recipes you already know healthier -- without spending any extra time.
Here are my five favorites...
Omit the oil.
All types of cooking oil are devoid of vitamins and minerals. And 100% of their their calories come from fat. 120 calories per tablespoon to be precise. Cutting empty calories is a great way to improve the health profile of your meal.
So what do you use? If the oil is used for sautéing, substitute water or (even tastier) vegetable broth instead. Easy peasy. If the oil is used in baked goods like muffins, substitute an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce. Done.
Not quite ready to try this? Try cutting your oil in half (and in the case of baked goods, sub with half applesauce). No one will notice.
Move to whole grain.
It can be easy to default to pasta for dinner, but there are a delicious variety of whole grains, offering a greater variety of nutrients, that you might want to try. Try polenta, millet or quinoa instead of pasta. They all cook in about 20 minutes and can be stored in your fridge for a few days for quick dinners later in the week.
Not quite ready to try this? Try a whole grain pasta made with quinoa or brown rice instead of semolina. Or try buckwheat noodles instead of white rice with your stir fry.
Double the vegetables.
Americans are notorious for not eating enough fruits and vegetables. (This is why I started Your Veggie Coach!) But this doesn’t mean you have to ditch your favorite dishes completely. Try doubling the vegetables in your entrees while you scale back on another ingredient. An easy one to try this with is a pasta dish. Cut back on the pasta and increase the vegetables. Your family may hardly notice and you’ll likely be increasing the nutrients in the dish while (bonus!) decreasing the calories.
Not quite ready to try this? Start by rounding up when measuring your vegetables for recipes. If the dish calls for 3 cups of cauliflower and the cauliflower you bought yields 3 1/2 or 4 cuts of florets, add them all in. This will also go a long way in preventing food waste by ensuring that a lonely cup of cauliflower won't meet a certain death in the back of your fridge.
Offer a salad first.
It’s often noted that hungry people will eat healthy food if it’s readily available. This is true! So if you have hungry family members lurking around the kitchen before dinner, having a salad ready to go before dinner is prepared can be a great way to painlessly encourage them to eat more vegetables before dinner even begins.
Not quite ready to try this? Salads can be a tough sell with certain age groups. A platter of cut up vegetables with a dip also does the trick. I’ve found vegetables and dip to be practically irresistible to the pre-dinner crowd. The kids may end up eating more vegetables than planned to serve them to begin with.
Cut out the cheese.
Did you know that the single largest source of saturated fat in the American diet is not actually meat? It's cheese. As a former vegetarian who knows what it’s like to rely too heavily on cheese, I know only too well how easy it is to overdo it.
Pizza is an easy example. At my local pizzeria we order our pizza with mushrooms, onions, olives, eggplant, roasted peppers and spinach -- but no cheese. With that many toppings on the pie you really don’t miss the cheese and the flavors of the vegetables and olives are really able to stand out. Another thing I don’t miss? That heavy in the belly feeling you get when you’ve had one slice too many.
Mexican food is another easy example. You can skip the cheese (and sour cream) and add guacamole, which offers the creaminess with 1/10th of the saturated fat found in an equal amount of cheddar cheese.
Not quite ready to try this? Think of cheese as a condiment instead of a main ingredient. Order your pizza light on the cheese and use just a sprinkle on that taco.
WHICH OF THESE 5 TIPS IS YOUR FAVORITE? Let me know in the comments below which one you want to try!