It’s well established that eating well is important for your overall health. Here are a few ways to make healthy eating fun and interesting:
Eat more antioxidant-rich foods: Eating more fruits and vegetables is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Add bright or dark colors, and aim to eat a rainbow of colors. Try a red apple on Monday, an orange yam on Tuesday, yellow bell peppers on Wednesday, green spinach salad on Thursday, roasted purple eggplant on Friday, sautéed white onions on Saturday and black beans on Sunday. Any fruits and vegetables are good: fresh, frozen, dried or canned without added sugars or salt. Other sources of antioxidants include nuts, seeds, beans and omega-3 fatty acids found in enriched or free-range eggs, walnuts, chia seeds and fish like salmon and mackerel.
Choose whole grains: Try more whole grains like 100% whole wheat bread, high fiber cereal, beans, brown rice, steel-cut oats, wheat or multigrain pasta, or ancient grains like amaranth, teff, quinoa or kamut. These intact grains are less processed and are higher in protein and fiber. Fiber helps with bowel habits, makes you feel fuller and can settle an upset tummy. Cook some barley in place of white rice. Add granola to your yogurt. Sprinkle flaxseeds, hemp seeds or oat bran on your cereal. Use whole grain flour in your muffins, and add nuts and fruit too!
Sweets: For a sweet treat, try cocoa and dark chocolate. Look for at least 60% cocoa content in chocolate. Add cocoa to homemade fruit smoothies or in baked goods for added flavor and a shot of antioxidants. Substitute dark chocolate for other desserts. Choose desserts with a healthy benefit like fruit-based pies, cookies with nuts or dried fruits, or fresh fruit drizzled with honey.
Spice it up: Use fresh or dried herbs and spices to add flavor. Try fresh basil, parsley or oregano, spices like curry powder and cinnamon, or dried ginger and nutmeg. Try some hot sauce or hot spices like red pepper for punch.
Drink more water: Before you feel thirsty, your body is still craving lots of fluids, and you may feel tired or cranky. Drink more when outdoors, especially in the summer heat, or after working outside. Try tea: black, green, white or oolong have lots of natural antioxidants and are lower in caffeine than coffee. Fruit-based herbal teas make great iced tea without the need for sugar. Or try infused water: add plain or sparking water to a pitcher of cut-up fruit or cucumbers. Crush some fresh mint leaves for a kick, or squeeze in fresh lemon or lime juice.
Limit junk foods: Stay away from highly processed foods with little nutritional value, such as potato chips and donuts. Avoid partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat), and limit high fructose corn syrup and added sugars. These foods can make you tired and zap your strength.
Registered dietitian Mindy Athas is an outpatient nutritionist at Carroll Hospital.