We know that certain foods are good for us, but what if we don’t know how to cook them? Or even worse, what if we simply don’t like the way they taste? Put on your chef’s hat and apron, and get that knife and fork ready. Once you try these delicious methods of incorporating healthy foods into your diet, there’s no looking back.
Dark green leafies
Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach and other dark-green leafy vegetables contain important phytochemicals that may help prevent age-related blindness caused by macular degeneration, according to Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D., of the Gastrointestinal Nutrition Laboratory at the Tufts Center on Aging in the February 2001 issue of the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. They’re also packed with vitamins A and C, fiber, folate and magnesium.
Try these tips for dark-green leafies you won’t be able to resist:
- For the sweetest flavor, choose small, bright-green Brussels sprouts. Add a stalk of celery to the cooking water to decrease the cabbage-type odor. Cook quickly until just slightly crisp for the very best flavor.
- Add a dash of lemon-pepper seasoning or grated Parmesan cheese to Brussels sprouts or kale for super flavor.
- Remove the tough stems on kale, and eat only the tender leaves. You can simply toss kale with other greens and vegetables in a salad or stir-fry, or add a handful of chopped kale to your favorite soup.
- Tender greens such as beet greens, spinach and Swiss chard are tastiest when wilted. Wash thoroughly with cold water, then place in a large pot and heat over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain, press out any moisture and chop. Sauté with minced garlic, Parmesan cheese, fresh ginger or slivered onion.
- Bitter greens such as collards, kale or mustard greens have a more assertive taste. Instead of wilting, cook 8 to12 minutes to mellow their flavor. Try seasoning with lemon juice, garlic, red pepper flakes or hot pepper sauce and vinegar.
- Don’t be afraid to substitute frozen chopped greens for fresh. Simply skip the wilting or blanching, and heat with your favorite seasoning or add to soup or a stir-fry.
It seems that commercials singing the praises of soy foods are everywhere, but just what do you do with tofu, tempeh and other foods made from soybeans? The American Heart Association recently recommended consuming 25 grams of soy protein every day as part of an overall healthy diet to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Don’t think you have to choke down scrambled tofu to protect your heart — try our surprisingly tasty ideas that your entire family is sure to love:
- Substitute textured soy protein for up to half the ground beef in meatballs, spaghetti with meat sauce or lasagna with meat. Mix the soy protein with a liquid that complements the recipe, such as tomato sauce, tomato juice or milk, until it is the consistency of ground beef. Then mix together with the rest of the meat. No one will know the difference!
- Whip up a smoothie based on soymilk or silken tofu. Add your favorite fruit and fruit juice, and a touch of honey or maple syrup for sweetness, and you’ve got a delicious, nutritious beverage in minutes.
- Add small pieces of chopped firm tofu to stir-fry, soup or casserole recipes. The tofu will absorb the flavor of the rest of the ingredients and add healthy protein at the same time.
- Munch on soy nuts — similar to peanuts — for a snack. Or include a handful of soy nuts in a do-it-yourself trail mix made from dried fruit, a sprinkling of chocolate chips, pretzels and your favorite dry cereal or cracker.
Just in case you don’t know, legumes are also known as dried beans and peas, and include lentils, garbanzo beans, kidney beans and pinto beans. They are an excellent source of fiber, and may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. If a plate of beans and rice doesn’t tickle your taste buds, try these sure-to-please ideas:
- Use canned legumes for speed and ease of preparation. Simply rinse under cold water and drain before adding to your favorite recipes.
- Choose soups that contain legumes. You can go legume-crazy with black bean or lentil soup, or enjoy minestrone or pasta-and-bean soups.
- Think south of the border. Spread a tortilla with vegetarian refried beans (which contain no saturated fat), and then add chicken, veggies, salsa and cheese — all your favorites. Add canned mashed kidney beans to nachos. Or make a fabulous dip by mixing spicy salsa with mashed pinto beans.
- Add legumes to foods you normally eat. Sprinkle garbanzo beans on a tossed salad, add kidney beans to spaghetti sauce or toss lentils into rice pilaf.