Each March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages Americans to return to the basics of healthful eating through National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme focused on combining taste and nutrition to create healthy meals that follow the recommendations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
There is a balance between preparing foods that meet our taste preferences and foods that provide the nutrition that we need. This year’s “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” theme reinforces that the two choices are not mutually exclusive.
Improving overall health requires a lifelong commitment to healthful lifestyle behaviors, emphasizing sustainable and enjoyable eating practices and daily physical activity. Preparing meals for our families is challenging. However, cooking healthy meals doesn’t have to be a chore, or something you have to plan for. Stock your kitchen with these items and you can be sure you have healthful meal ingredients at your fingertips on those day where you have very little time to plan.
In the Freezer
- Frozen Berries – Perishable, delicate berries stand up well in the freezer. These antioxidant superpowers can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt and salads to help reduce the risk of developing cancer. My family is particularly fond of blueberries and love these mixed with craisins in their salads.
- Mixed Vegetables – Flash-frozen at the peak of their freshness to retain vitamins, plain frozen vegetables with no added salt are perfect for stir-fries, soups, pasta primavera and side dishes.
- Veggie Burgers – Packed with protein, zinc and vitamin B12, lean frozen veggie burgers pack in nutrition without too much fat. They can be served as burgers or crumbled into marinara sauces, stir-fries or soups for added protein or as a meat substitute.
In the Fridge
- Eggs – Once maligned as cholesterol raisers, eggs have now been vindicated. People who consume up to seven eggs per week have no greater risk of high cholesterol than those who avoid eggs entirely.
- Dark Leafy Greens – Whether you use kale, collards or spinach, greens deliver the essential vitamins A, C and K to your diet, and are rich in disease-fighting antioxidants. Try to include some type of leafy green salad in your diet every day.
- Plain Non-fat Greek Yogurt – High in calcium, yogurt can replace sour cream or be used to make savory tzatziki or riata. Add fruit for a sweet dessert.
- Apples – Just behind berries in antioxidant content, apples are a source of vitamin C. Plus, the phytonutrients in apples may help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Onions/Garlic – High in phytochemicals and great flavor enhancers, these are must-haves in any recipe. When you remove fat, add onions and garlic for strong and rich flavors.
In the Cabinet
- Whole Grains, Pasta, Quinoa, Couscous and Rice – Eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases and keeps your gut healthy.
- Nuts and Seeds – Lower your risk of heart disease by munching on ¼ cup (60 milliliters) of mixed unsalted nuts and seeds a few times each week. They’ll stay fresh longer if they’re kept frozen. They are great hold-over snacks for hungry children before dinner is ready.
- Seasoning – Olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, sugar (honey or agave), herbs (fresh or dried), and other favorite spices such as turmeric, cumin, curry and cinnamon. With these seasonings, you can cook fresh, seasonal vegetables and a desired protein to simple, delicious perfection- sauté seasonal vegetables and lean protein in olive oil with the listed ingredients and call it a meal. Or you can make a fresh salad with seasonal greens, vegetables and lean protein using the seven ingredients as your vinaigrette.
Now that your kitchen is stocked with the healthiest of foods and you are armed with flavor enhancing preparation tips, the sky is the limit when it comes to healthy meals.